Saturday, March 10, 2007

Linguini with Broccoli and Peppers in the Kitchen

Janet e-mailed this morning asking, "Is there any easy recipe with pasta that you haven't offered?" She explained that they went up on her contributions to her health insurance at work and she's attempting to figure out exactly how her already tight budget is going to be stretched even further to make up for what "is a joke" called insurance?

To stay on the topic of insurance a bit before we get to the recipe, you hear in the press reports about the number of insured and uninsured Americans. That's a really bad comparison. I know too many friends who have lousy coverage. Janet does as well and shared various procedures that her insurance won't cover, the fact that she has to pay $5,000 out of her own pocket before it kicks in, the fact that getting sick means a trip to the drug store, not the doctor and she'll stock up on various over the counter medicines because she can't meet the premium. Having insurance does very little (other than peace of mind) if it's lousy insurance and far too many Americans have lousy insurance. That used to be a huge surprise to me. My husband's been with the same company since we got married and they offer real insurance. They're also one of the apparently few who haven't felt stock market losses meant it was time to screw over the employees.

It was something like pink eye that first really brought the problem for me. One of the kids, probably our oldest son, had pink eye when there was an outbreak in his class. Trip to the doctor, eye drops and he was over it. The mother of one of his classmates asked if we'd used all the prescription eye drops. We hadn't. Though she and her husband both worked, a visit to the doctor was something they couldn't swing if it could be at all avoided. I was happy to pass on the eye drops. That was when I first started to notice that not everyone has insurance that does anything other than rip off the employee by taking a portion of each check.

It's like renters' insurance in a lot of ways. My father hates this story. When I first got married, we lived in an apartment for a few months and my father said we needed renters' insurance. What if we were robbed, what if there was a fire? We lied and said we had it to get him off our backs but we didn't. The only benefit I saw to renters' insurance was that you could go to sleep without any nightmares that you'd lose everything tomorrow. I think that's all a lot of the health insurance does -- it tells you that if you end up with a major disease, you can get some medical attention. Most of the plans are so bad that you can't go in when you've got the cold or the flu, but if you end up with something broken or a disease, you know it's there.

Insurance is a big talking point for some of the Democrats running. No offense to Hillary Clinton but, being from an area that was strong in the push for universal health care, what she offered wasn't universal health care -- what she offered as First Lady. It was a great gift to the insurance companies, but it wasn't universal health care.

I hear a lot of disappointing 'ideas' in the health care discussions today by candidates. The easiest way to cut costs is to eliminate the duplication in paper work and to take on the insurance industry but instead it appears most candidates are more than happy to get in bed with insurance (which Hillary did) and screw the public while telling them that they're going to reduce the costs of health care.

An exception to that nonsense is Dennis Kucinich. This is part of what he has up at his site on health care:

We must establish streamlined national health insurance, "Enhanced Medicare for Everyone." It would be publicly financed health care, privately delivered, and will put patients and doctors back in control of the system. Coverage will be more complete than private insurance plans; encourage prevention; and include prescription drugs, dental care, mental health care, and alternative and complementary medicine.
Perhaps the clearest and most eloquent explanation of the Conyers-Kucinich National Health Insurance Bill was given on February 4, 2003, in Washington, D.C. by Dr. Marcia Angell in introducing H. R. 676. Backed by over 14,000 doctors, this is the future of American medicine.
"We are here today to introduce a national health insurance program. Such a program is no longer optional; it's necessary.
"Americans have the most expensive health care system in the world. We spend about twice as much per person as other developed nations, and that gap is growing. That's not because we are sicker or more demanding (Canadians, for example, see their doctors more often and spend more time in the hospital). And it's not because we get better results. By the usual measures of health (life expectancy, infant mortality, immunization rates), we do worse than most other developed countries. Furthermore, we are the only developed nation that does not provide comprehensive health care to all its citizens. Some 42 million Americans are uninsured (nearly 46 million today -- updated figure) -- disproportionately the sick, the poor, and minorities -- and most of the rest of us are underinsured. In sum, our health care system is outrageously expensive, yet inadequate. Why? The only plausible explanation is that there's something about our system -- about the way we finance and deliver health care -- that's enormously inefficient. The failures of the system were partly masked during the economic boom of the 1990's, but now they stand starkly exposed. There is no question that with the deepening recession and rising unemployment, in the words of John Breaux, 'The system is collapsing around us.'
"The underlying problem is that we treat health care like a market commodity instead of a social service. Health care is targeted not to medical need, but to the ability to pay. Markets are good for many things, but they are not a good way to distribute health care. To understand what's happening, let's look at how the health care market works ... "
"Mainstream" writers like Ph. D. economist and columnist for the New York Times Paul Krugman now agree with those doctors and Dennis that "covering everyone under Medicare would actually be significantly cheaper than our current system." They all recognize that we already spend enough to provide national health care to all but lack the political courage to make the tough decisions that doctors, nurses and medical professionals must run our health care system, not "for profit" insurance companies who make money by denying health care.
It is time to recognize that all the civilized countries have a solution that we must adapt to this country. American businesses can no longer be competitive shouldering the entire cost of health care. Health care is a right that all Americans deserve.

I support that (and I support his long term stance against the illegal war) but isn't it interesting how the press coverage gets all smirky on Kucinich and goes all soft focus when it's time to explore issues? Kucinich has positions on issues, not just pleasing little sayings that can be typed in easily to an article. John Edwards, who may be strong on other issues, either doesn't grasp how to address health care or he doesn't want to tick of the insurance companies. Hillary Clinton, the War Hawk Supreme, can't be trusted on the war and has already demonstrated that she will sell out the people she is supposedly listening to, supposedly seeking the input of, to please the big business lobby.

That's really important to note because we could all have universal health care right now. There's a myth about how the Clintons were up against a Republican Congress their whole time and they just did the best they could. I'm saying "they," just to be clear for younger readers, because in the 1992 election, Hillary was promoted as a player. That ended around the time of the election. But she was put in charge of the health care issue. It shouldn't have taken long to put together a workable policy because she'd had input long before the election. But a funny thing happened, all the advocates of universal health care tended to find themselves shut out. The secret meetings Hillary held (on the tax dollar) weren't some right-wing attack. The objections came from advocates in the field who couldn't understand why they were being shut out of the process and why government policy was being formulated in secret when sunshine laws dictated that the meetings be open to the public?

What she finally emerged with was a laughable proposal that couldn't have torpedoed universal health care quicker if that had been her intention. (And maybe that was her intention.) The right objected to numerous things. (One thing was a national identity card but, note, when they have Bully Boy in the White House, many of the same ones objecting in the 90s are suddenly for it.) But the Democrats controlled Congress then. The proposal wasn't shot down because Republicans hated the Clintons (though some did hate them), it was shot down because it was so far from what was promised and it wasn't universal health care.

Now for the recipe.

1 pound linguini
1 pound fresh broccoli, chopped

1 red bell pepper, diced or cut in strips
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
Dash of salt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. If you're watching sodium, you don't have to salt the water. As a general rule, salted water allows a sauce to stick better to the pasta, while using olive oil in the water results in the opposite. You can use olive oil in the water, there's no sauce.

Add pasta and cook according to the directions on the package. Drain the pasta when done.
After chopping, put the broccoli pieces into a microwaveable dish with 2 tablespoons of water and heat for 6 to 7 minutes uncovered.
Optional step: Heat olive oil in a skillet, add butter, stir in the garlic and red bell pepper and saute for a few minutes. Add the broccoil to the skillet and continue to stir over a low heat.
Toss the contents of the skillet with the pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Optional step? Some people prefer their bell pepper uncooked. If that's you, or if you're thrown by the thought of using a skillet, use the recipe without the optional step to get used to it. When the broccoli is done in the microwaves, you'll all the garlic and bell pepper to it, then drain.

Once you get used to the recipe and see how easy it is, you're ready to use the skillet the next time you make the dish.

Red bell peppers are more attractive (to my eyes) but you can make this dish with green bell peppers instead. (Or as well. You can use both.) That may end up being a cost issue for some because read bell peppers are generally higher at the store, in terms of cost, than are green bell peppers. A nice warm loaf of garlic bread or Italian bread will further add to the meal. As will a green salad.

Betty's "Jumping Jerk Thom Friedman -- he's a gas, gas, gas" is already up so be sure to check that out. I don't know her outline (I'm sure she'd show it to me if I asked) but I think we've got another clue about Betinna in this chapter. I also applaud Kat's wonderful "It's about perspective and humanity" and, if you're looking for a laugh that rings true, Cedric's "Put if off for another day!" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! NO PLAN! AGAIN!" pretty much capture the incompetence of the administration that started an illegal war.

A few thoughts on the illegal war. Have you noticed we're almost at 3,200? I know where I was when I learned we'd passed the 3,000 mark, here at the house in the midst of our New Year's Eve gathering. It wasn't all that long ago. Now the number is almost up to 3,200. This week we learned that the escalation numbers Bully Boy gave out were false -- more bodies will be needed, more monies will be needed. The Pentagon's already approved a request for 2,000 more US service members in addition to Bully Boy's planned escalation numbers.

That is his only "answer" at this point. Keep wasting lives and monies on his failed policies, on his criminal policies. Agustin Aguayo was court-martialed Tuesday for having the guts to say "no" to this illegal war. A little petition proclaiming, "Please reconsider the war but we'll fight in it whether you do or not" demonstrates little bravery. Aguayo and other war resisters show real courage. It's a point that needs to be made since the e-activists have felt very free to slam war resisters publicly with each passing week.

MADRE, the NGO studying the treatment of women, issued a report this week (there are links in the snapshot) that addressed the genocide aimed at women in Iraq and the US government and military's eagerness to assist in that. It's an important report and one that's gotten very little attention from big media. As with Afghanistan, the US administration talked big to the press but sold out women.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" from yesterday:

Friday, March 9, 2007. Chaos and violence (though little reported) continues, protests continue, the country of Georgia provides mirth in the illegal war (if not genuine support for the Bully Boy), a US marine is announced dead, footage of another US service member's death is supposedly set to be released, Dems plan receives muted response, and the veterans health care crisis moves from Walter Reed to VA hospitals.

Starting with war resistance.
Agustin Aguayo was court-martialed and sentenced Tuesday. Circles Robinson (Ahora) notes: "Doing the right thing can be costly, but in the end one can at least sleep at night. Ask Spc. Agustin Aguayo, 35, a U.S. citizen born in Guadalajara, Mexico, who was just sentenced by a US military court in Wurzburg, Germany. His crime was a gut feeling shared by a growing number of ordinary citizens and soldiers alike: President Bush's war in Iraq isn't their war." He was sentenced to eight months but given credit for the days he had already served since turning himself in at the end of September. Rosalio Munoz (People's Weekly World) sees a victory in the outcome: "The March 6 military court conviction of pacifist soldier Agustin Aguayo was reversed in the court of public opinon as Amnesty International officially recognized him as a 'prisoner of conscience,' and a battery of progressive attorneys began efforts to get a federal court to reverse the Army's denial of conscientious objector status to Aguayo." Stefan Steinberg (World Socialist Web) sees the line of continuity from one war resister to another, "Aguayo has become the latest in a growing list of US soldiers who are facing trials and courts-martial for refusing to serve in Iraq. Recently, Lt. Ehren Watada, 29, became the first US officer to be tried for refusing to obey a command to return to Iraq. In his defence, Watada argued he was merely following his constitutional rights to oppose fighting in a war he regarded as illegal. The Japanese American described the US invasion and occupation of Iraq as 'an illegal and unjust war ... for profit and imperialistic domination.' Watada's attorney Eric Seitz, had sought to defend his client on the basis of the Nuremburg Principles -- i.e., that soldiers have the duty to disobey unlawful orders in the case of an illegal and unjust war."

Steinberg is correct,
Agustin Aguayo is part of a movement of resistance with the military that includes others such as Ehren Watada, Kyle Snyder, Agustin Aguayo, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia, Patrick Hart, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Corey Glass, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

It is vital that we build a strong counter-recruitment movement to expose lies used by the military to send working-class and poor children to war. We must also lend our full support to the soldiers and reservists who are refusing to fight in Iraq.
[. . .]
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. government learned how quickly the discipline of an army fighting an unjust war can break down. Today soldiers in the field can see the contradictions between the claims of their officers and especially the politicians who sent them to war and the reality of the conflict on the ground. They now know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and posed no imminent threat. And as the Iraqi resistance to occupation grows, more soldiers have come to see that they are fighting not to liberate Iraqis but to 'pacify' them. To end this war, more will need to follow their conscience, like [Camilo] Mejia and the other soldiers who have refused to die -- or kill -- for a lie.

The excerpt above is from Anthony Arnove's
IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal. Arnove has an event on Saturday the 10th and on Sunday the 11th (Ty and Sunny -- for Elaine -- passed on the following):

Saturday, March 10
8 pm
Readings from
Voices of a People's History of the United States
The Great Hall, Cooper Union
as part of the
Left Forum 2007
Free for conference participants and the general public.
With performances by Staceyann Chin, Deepa Fernandes, Brian Jones, Erin Cherry,
Najla Said, Mario A. Murrillo, and other special guests.
Narration and introduction by Amy Goodman, host of
Democracy Now! and
Anthony Arnove (who, with Howard Zinn, authored
Voices of a People's History of the United States)

Sunday, March 11
10 am
Iraq: What's at Stake?"
Cooper Union
Left Forum 2007
Anthony Arnove, Christian Parenti, AK Gupta, Nir Rosen, and Gilbert Achcar.

Wednesday, March 14
7:00 pm
"Friendly Fire: An Independent Journalist's Story on Being Abducted in Iraq,
Rescued, and Shot by U.S. Forces"
Judson Church
55 Washington Square South
featuring: Giulian Sgrena the Il Manifesto journalist and author of
Friendly Fire who was abudcted in Iraq, rescued by Italian security forces only to be shot at (Nicola Calipari would die from the gun fire) by US forces while en route to the Baghdad Airport; Amy Goodman and the Center for Constitutional Rights' executive director Vince Warren.
Sgrena is calling for the Pentagon to take responsibility for the shooting.

Yesterday, in the United States, Democrats in the US House and Senate unveiled their plans for Iraq.
Michael Rowland (AM, Australia's ABC) explains the House legislation: "Democrats have been talking about setting a troop withdrawal deadline ever since opposition to the war swept them to power in last year's congressional elections. Today they bit the bullet, unveiling legislation that sets down actual dates. . . . The legislation sets out a set of benchmarks that must be met in Iraq in the coming year. They're mainly to do with quelling the sectarian violence on the streets of Baghdad, the very objective of the president's plan to send an extra 22,000 US troops to Iraq. The House of Representatives speaker, Nancy Pelosi, says the strategy will be given time to work. But she warns the troop withdrawal will be fast-tracked if the re-enforcements fail to make any difference." John Nichols (The Nation), picking up at the benchmarks: "If those benchmarks remain unmet, a slow process of extracting troops would begin under the plan favored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, Wisconsin's David Obey and Pennsylvania's John Murtha, the chair and defense subcommittee chair respectively of the appropriations committee; and Missouri's Ike Skelton, who chairs the armed services committee. The fact that Democratic leaders are talking about attempting to impose a timeline for withdrawal is good. It puts the opposition party in a position of actually opposing an unpopular president's exceptionally unpopular policies. Unfortunately, because the president wants to maintain the occupation on his terms, Bush can be counted on to veto legislation establishing benchmarks and a timeline. So the Democrats find themselves in a difficult position. They plan to expend immense time and energy -- and perhaps even a small measure of political capital -- to promote a withdrawal strategy. Yet, the strategy they are promoting is unlikely to excite Americans who want this war to end. In other words, while Pelosi and her compatriots propose to fight for a timeline, it is not the right timeline."

John A. Murphy (CounterPunch) observes, "The Democratic House has drafted legislation which has no chance of surviving a presidential veto and at the same time does not meet the hopes and aspirations and demands of the overwhelming majority of the American voting public. They have however drafted legislation that makes them feel good. Somehow or other the so-called 'liberal Democrats' are going to be happy about supporting a bill which would kill 60,000 Iraqis and 1,800 Americans because the bill will not alienate the 'more moderate Democrats'." Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) points out: "Anti-war Democrats have also come out against the plan. New York Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, a member of the Out of Iraq caucus, said: 'All this bill will do is fund another year of the war, and I can't vote for that'."

NYU professor Stephen F. Cohen (writing at The Nation) notes: "Unless the United States withdraws its military forces from Iraq in the near future, a war that began as an unnecssary invasion based on deception and predictably grew into a disastrous occupation will go down in history as a terrible crime, if it hasn't already. For Americans of conscience, Iraq has therefore become the paramount moral issue of our time."

On that note, we'll return to
MADRE's "Promising Democracy, Imposing Theocracy: Gender-Based Violence and the US War on Iraq" (which can be read in full in PDF format or, by sections, in HTML). Wednesday, section one ("Towards Gender Apartheid in Iraq") was noted and, Thursday, section II, "Iraq's Other War: Impsoing Theocracy Through Gender-Based." Section III is "The Rise of US-Backed Death Squads" which further documents how the US equipped, trained and facilitated the ongoing femicide in Iraq.

The femicide has its roots in "The Salvador Option," so, as the report notes, it is not surprising to find the same actors involved. Just as James Steel and John Negroponte were involved in the death squads in El Salvador during the 1980s, they teamed up in Iraq with Negroponte acting as US ambassador to the country and James Steele commanding the US troops who trained the Badr and Mahdi militias. While the Bully Boy made noises to domestic audiences about 'freedom' and 'liberation,' "on the ground in Iraq, the Islamist militas were wholly tolerated." Backing, training and arming them "offered an enticing advantage over government troops. For a time, their quasi-official status allowed the US to out-source the violence of its count-insurgency operations without having to answer for the militias' gross human rights violations, including their campaign of terror against the women of Iraq." When not training these militias themselves, the US out-sourced the training to DynCorp which

Working women have been especially targeted because "they commit a double offense -- by advocating a secular society and by being accomplished, working women." But the press has refused to cover this campaign of violence against women as one of the stories coming from Iraq and treated acts of violence against women as incidental to the larger story (it is the story). "To cite just one example, in October 2005, journalist Robert Dreyfuss, known for his authorative and critical analysis of Iraqi politics, reported that in addition to targeting Sunnis, the Shiite Badr Brigade was 'terrorizing Iraq's secular, urban Shiite population.' Although gender-based violence was a central tactic of this terror campaign, Dreyfuss does not mention it. Nor does he explore why a supposedly sectarian militia was terrorizing members of its own sect. Like most media accounts, Dreyfuss' report fails to consider the Badr milita from the perspective of Shiite women. From women's vantage point, the militia is typical of theocratic fundamentalists everywhere. For such groups, asserting control over members of their own religion -- especially women, who are seen as the carriers of group identity -- is a prerequisite to extending control over society at large, including, ultimately, the institutions of the state."

The report notes that the press is not the only grouping that has failed to draw attention to the ongoing femicide and notes the anti-war movement has also ignored the gender violence that is taking place. The clampdown, by the US, on the Iraqi Health Ministry has prevented already faulty data on the attacks from being released. The report uses Maha as an example of how the militias and the police work together in Iraq -- Maha "was abducted from her home in Najaf and trafficked from brothel to brothel in Baghdad for nearly two years. She managed to escape twice and flee to the police station in Baghdad's Amiriyah neighborhood. Both times the police forcibly returned her to the brothel."

Noting the report,
Laura Flanders (writing at The Notion -- Nation's blog) pointed out that 100 female corpses were left unclaimed in a Basra hospital "mutilated . . . families are too scared to pick them up." Flanders is the host of RadioNation with Laura Flanders which airs each Saturday and Sunday, 7:00 to 10:00 pm EST, on Air America Radio, XM radio and online. Saturday's guest will include one or both of her uncles as guests -- Andrew Cockburn and/or Patrick Cockburn. The program's website says Andrew, the blog post says Patrick. Either (or both) will be worth hearing.


AFP reports at least one person died from a roadside bombing in Kirkuk. CBS and AP report that Donald Neil, civilian contractor, was killed while trying to dismantle a bomb. (Location given is "Iraq.")


AFP reports that, in Kirkuk, two Iraqi soldiers were shot dead. Sami al-Jumaili (Reuters) reports that one police officer was shot dead and three more wounded when a police station in Hibhib was attacked -- ten police officers are missing and assumed/feared kidnapped. Australia's The Daily Telegraph reports that the attack included "setting fire to vehicles and destroying the building".


Reuters reports that ten corpses were discovered in Baghdad. Voices of Iraq reports seven corpses were discovered today in the Diala province.

Today, the
US military announced: "A Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West was killed March 9 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." In addition, CBS and AP report: "On Friday, the Islamic State of Iraq announced it would soon be releasing a video on the death of a U.S. Air Force pilot whose F-16 jet crashed Nov. 27 north of Baghdad, according to the IntelCenter, which monitors insurgent Web sites. The pilot, Maj. Troy L. Gilbert, was listed officially as 'whereabouts unknown' but then reported by the U.S. military as dead following DNA tests from remains at the scene."

Meanwhile, in military news,
Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) reports that David Petraeus' much noted Thursday press converence "did not offer . . . a strategy for dealing with such attacks, underscoring a major dilemma facing U.S. and Iraqi forces as they carry out what has been described as a last-ditch effort to curb the deadly civil war." Ernesto Londono and Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post), on the same press conference, noted the fact that not only has Petraues upped the escalation numbers but he's dropped Casey's talk of "the summer, late summer" when the supposed, alleged accomplishments of the latest crackdown version will be visible. And the escalation continues to add numbers. Yesterday, it was an additional 2,000. Today, Andrew Gray (Reuters) reports that Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon is requesting more troops for the Diyala province.

BBC notes that Georgia (the country) "will more than double the number of troops it has in Iraq" from 850 to 2,000. 2,000 isn't a large number and some wonder what the US government offered to get the small figure doubled? (Georgia's population is estimated to 4.6 million.)

Things not worth noting in depth. Puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki toured Baghdad -- with a heavily armed squad of bodyguards numbering at least six who shadowed him at all times as he shook hands with Iraqi soldiers at checkpoints. US forces announced another al Qaeda (alleged) leader captured. Don't they get tired of selling that nonsense?

Turning to the issue of health care for veterans,
Ian Urbina and Ron Nixon (New York Times) report on the Veterans Affairs where the government is slow to respond and refuses to anticipate or calculate need resulting in various horror stories such as prolonged waiting for claims to kick in (James Webb returned from Iraq injured from a bombing and had to wait 11 months for the promised and obligated payments to kick in while Allen Curry fell "behind on his morgage while waiting nearly two years for his disability check"). Hope Yen (AP) reports that, testifying before US House Veterans Affairs committee yesterday, Paul Sullivan (one time VA project manager) stated he repeatedly "warned officials" at the VA that "there would be a surge in claims as veterans returned from Iraq and Afghanistan," and that he began sounding the alarm in August 2005. Joel Connelly (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) notes that US Senator Patty Murray, who severs on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has drawn comparisons to today's health crisis for veterans with the illegal war itself: "They have lowballed the cost of this war, and the cost of caring for our soliders. . . . It goes to the top, to the highest level. The Bush administration wants the country to feel there is no cost to war." Rick Maze (The Navy Times) covers an idea by US Senator Larry Craig which would require "issuing veterans an authorization card that would allow them to seek care anywhere could address two longstanding complaints: long waits to see a VA doctor, and long trips for veterans who live far from a VA hospitals." Based on Urbina and Nixon's reporting, 'portability' might be besides the point when "the current war has nearly overwhelmed an agency already struggling to meet the health care, disability payment and pension needs of more than three million veterans." Zooming in on one VA center, Mike Drummond Peter Smolowitz and Michael Gordon (The Charlotte Observer) discover that a 2005 inspection of North Carolina's Hefner VA Medical Center found a substandard facility: "Using the clinically blunt language of the medical bureaucracy, the team describes a facility with poorly trained doctors and nurses who, among other things, cut corners on treatment, manipulated records and did't talk enough with paitents and families." In one tragic example, they note 41-year-old Robert Edward Lashmit who died: "Lashmit's condition and vital signs were not updated during his 19-day stay. Instead, investigators found, his doctor 'copied and pasted the same daily progress note for the entire hospitalization.' That meant information vital to Lashmit's treatment remained the same even as his condition deteriorated. He died of live failure. Later, when investigators asked Lashmit's doctor about pasting outdated records, they said he told them: 'no one told him he could not do it'."

Turning to the scandal of Walter Reed Army Medical Center,
Brooke Hart (NBC News) reports on the scramble as the army attempts to address the disgrace -- the army willl institute a "30-day study of problems at major military facilities" and will establish a complaint hotline for veterans that will be allow for complaints to be registered twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. In another quick fix measures, Alana Semuels (Los Angeles Times) reports that Michael Tucker ( a brig. general) will move from Fort Knox to become the "deputy commanding general of the Walter Reed Army Medical Ceneter." Interviewed by Jake Stump (Charleston Daily Mail), US Senator Jay Rockefeller declares that "[t]he real question is not necessarily what happens at Walter Reed," but the refusal of the US Defense Department to meet the needs of veterans. US Rep Kirsten Gillibrand tells Albany's Time Union that she hopes the Walter Reed scandal starts a new debate on topics such as funding of the VA and veteran's' benefits. Walter Reed Army Medical Center, FYI, is funded by the Defense Department, not the VA. Interestingly, one Congressional rep wanted answers but he appeared to have had them some time sgo. Adam Schreck (Balitmore Sun) reports that US House Rep C.W. Bill Young made frequent visits to Walter Reed with his wife where they "found wounded sholdiers who didn't have adequate clothes, even one doing his rehabilitation in the bloody boots he had on when he was injured. One soldier, ashamed that his mattress was soaked with urine, tried to turn Young's wife away, the Florida Republican recalled yesterday. Another with a serious brain injury fell out of bed and his head three times before someone was assigned to make sure it didn't happen again." For those who've forgotten, Dana Priest, Anne Hulle (Washington Post for the first two) and Bob Woodruff (ABC News) shined the light on the issues in the last few weeks. What did US House Rep Young do since, by his own accounting, he was familiar with many issues that needed addressing? As Florida's Star-Banner notes in an editorial: "The St. Petersburg Times and other media reported on Thursday that U.S. Rep Bill Young, a Republican from Indian Shores and formerly one of the most powerful members of Congress, acknowledged that he knew of the squalid conditions at Walter Reed but failed to disclose them. In one instance, Young recalled one soldier who was sitting his his bed in a pool of urine when Young's wife discovered him. Hospital staff, Young noted, did nothing and when questioned told him, 'This is war. We have a lot of casualties. We don't have enough sheets and blankets to go around.' Young, according to the Times, kept quiet because he wanted to respect family privacy and 'did not want to undermine the confidence of the patients and their families and give the Army a black eye while fighting a war'." What a load of hogwash. By staying silent he allowed the problem to continue and worsen. Staying silent helped no one and, were it not for the press doing their job and his, he'd probably still be silent today.

In protest news,
Frederic J. Frommer (AP) reports that the Occupation Project (ongoing visits, sit-ins, and of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience to put the pressure on elected officials to stop funding the war) continues and focuses on actions in Wisconsin and Minnesota. In Wisconsin, US House Rep David Obey has not met with them but did have four arrested on Monday including Joy First. In Minnesota, US Senator Herb Kohl did meet with them but is quite happy to continue funding the illegal war and play stupid (all his life). Frommer notes that every Tuesday, two nuns, Kate and Rita McDonald, are occupying the office of US Senator Norm Coleman who is a Republican but also "a former anti-war protester himself from the Vietnam era". Despite knowing better, Coleman remains firmly behind funding the illegal war. Also in protest news, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) interviewed Wally Cuddeford about the protests going on in Tacoma which resulted in four arrests Sunday night. Cuddeford explains the purpose behind the protests: "Our goal is to stop military shipments from Fort Lewis going to Iraq. We were successful stopping the shipments through the Port of Olympia and now we're helping our friends in Tacoma stop the shipments there. The shipments are Stryker vehicles, they are speedy combat trasnprots, armed transports. They are the back bone of the occupation.
Half of all the Stryker vehicles to Iraq. If we are able to cut off Stryker vehicles to Iraq we could easily end this occupation."
Clear Channel reports that Ann Wright (retired Army colonel and retired State Department) spoke to the Jefferson Community College about the war ("For us to have gone into Iraq, invaded and occupied it, and not even with the agreement of the UN Security Council, unfortunately it falls into the category of a war of aggression and in my opinion is a war crime.") in an event sponsored by Veterans for Peace and Different Drummer Cafe. She will be speaking at Different Drummer Cafe today at 6:00 pm at 12 Paddock Arcade, 1 Public Square, Watertown, NY.

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agustin aguayo