Saturday, April 26, 2008

Corn-Stuffed Bell Peppers in the Kitchen

Mark is eleven-years-old and lives in East Texas. His parents just moved there from Ohio and they're gearing up to have their first summer garden. He and his father e-mailed to explain Mark's choices of what to plant: bell peppers, onions and tomatoes. They weren't sure whether the choices would produce in the Texas soil but could I think of a recipe? I didn't have to do any thinking there because Elizabeth had e-mailed a favorite recipe she wanted to share that's perfect for what they were planning. So instead, I used my time this week to check in with Common Ills community members in East Texas. "Here's the deal," wrote back Marshall, "if they water, they're going to have more bell peppers than anything except for onions." That was echoed in e-mails from other members in the region. Tomatoes will grow very well but Mark and his parents better be in the mood for onions and bell pepppers because you basically have to kill them off once you plant. Noonday, which is a town in East Texas, has an onion festival each year because onions are so plentiful. In terms of bell peppers, you can grow any color of them so the cautionary note there was to plant more than just green ones. That will allow some variety "and around mid-July, they're going to be sick of seeing green bell peppers," wrote Sandy who also wanted me to note that if they plant jalepeno peppers they will grow as well. Bill wanted me to suggest the family take time right now to start learning about canning because they're going to need to can the tomatoes. Bill added that corn will grow but for a first time garden, it's more work than they probably want and they'll also have to fend off squirrels and rabbits. Elixabeth's favorite recipe is by Diana Rattray, "Corn-Stuffed Bell Peppers" from Southern Cooks.

6 medium green bell peppers
3 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup diced fresh tomato
1 tablespoon chopped onion
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
Slice tops from peppers; remove seeds and white membranes. Put peppers in a large saucepan; cover with salted water. Cover pan and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes; drain and set aside.
Combine remaining ingredients; spoon into drained green peppers. Place in baking pan and bake in a preheated 350° oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until done.
Stuffed pepper recipe serves 6.

So that's a recipe that will give you numerous vitamins, fiber and is also tasty.

This is part of John Stauber's "Pentagon, TV Networks Fear Debating Iraq Propaganda Scandal - Stauber vs. Zelnick on NewsHour" (PR Watch):

This Sunday's stunning, front-page New York Times revelations of the Pentagon military analyst program have been met with a wall of silence and cover-up on network television news. America's TV networks -- ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN and FOX -- are where most Americans get most of their news, and they are the main culprits in allowing Donald Rumsfeld and Torie Clarke to turn them into the primary propaganda tool for selling the Iraq war to the public.
PBS NewsHour covered this issue in a televised debate April 24 pitting me against
Robert Zelnick, former ABC Pentagon correspondent and now chair of the Boston University journalism department. (Zelnick is also affiliated with the Hoover Institute, a conservative think tank.) No one from the Pentagon would agree to appear on the PBS show, nor would anyone appear from any of the guilty TV networks.
My debate with Zelnick is
now on YouTube, where you can watch it yourself. The NewsHour report on the Pentagon pundits that preceded our debate is also online, and if you have a slow internet connection (or if you find my face and voice too irritating to tolerate), you can also read the online transcript.

I enjoyed his joke about his face and voice (which I don't find irritating) but was glad that he provided the link to the transcript as well because there are people who can't stream video and there are people whose computers allow them to stream video but, if closed captioning isn't available with the video, it does them no good. The New York Times story was more of an 'official' confirmation than a revelation. If you read Stauber's Weapons fo Mass Deception: The Uses of Propagnada in Bush's War on Iraq, co-written with Sheldon Rampton, especially chapter two (War Is Sell), the paper's story was no surprise to you. And maybe a lot of people read that book (good) but it's also true that there's no way everyone read that book.

So the reaction to the story has been a little puzzling. Maybe even those who read it weren't surprised? It really was a hard sell, war with Iraq. And passions have cooled. So maybe for some, their reaction was, "Yeah, makes sense. That explains it."? But it was rather strange to see so many of the organs and outlets that sold the illegal war try to act like the story wasn't published. I don't know if most people are even aware that the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates commented publicly on the story? I was mentioning that to some friends mid-week, and they either didn't know or only knew because of C.I.'s Monday "Iraq snapshot:"

Following Gates speech today, he took questions and one was about the New York Times' report Sunday "about the number of retired senior officers who are commentators but who also serve on boards for companies that are profiting from the war. Sir, what do you think about all these senior officers who are now retired influencing public opinion about the Department of Defense and the war effort?" Gates tried to merge the issue with the issue of political campaigns referring to retired generals ("these guys") who are "eithering up for different candidates or as media experts and so on". Gates stated, "I did read the article, and frankly, I think that -- I couldn't quite tell how much of it was an implied political conflict of interest, an implied finanical conflict of interest or what." He did allow "I think that the one service they owe everybody is making clear that they're speaking only for themselves."

Sunday's front page article was written by David Barstow and he noted:

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivy, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found. The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynmaic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to asses on air.

No, Gates really didn't answer the question.

So the silence and disinterest, even after the Secretary of Defense was publicly commenting, was very strange. It's equally true that you can't count on Panhandle Media. They're too busy lying for Barack Obama to help with anything. It's amazing how many people have caught on to their nonsense. Jim called for C.I. this morning and we were on the phone for a bit (C.I. and Mike were running and not yet back to the house). So he and I were talking about it and how Panhandle Media was destroying itself. He was asking me if I could remember that happen as Vietnam wound down? I could. They all tried to sell a candidate then too and they blew their reputations, they destroyed them. The same way they're doing now. If you want to blame the state of the country today on anything, blame it on Panhandle Media that decided they'd be king makers instead of information channels. Amy Goodman today is just repeating the mistakes of her elders. She had something of a reputation and she destroyed it by bringing on Barack supporters (and even a part of his campaign) without ever telling her audience that, she destroyed it by 'staging' roundtables that were packed with Barack supporters (without telling her audience that) and that were intended to be slanted. When she brings on one of her journalists from a paper you've never heard of (daily or weekly) to talk about the upcoming primary or the one that just took place, she always fails to inform the audience that these 'objective' journalists happened to write something like (in Nevada's case) "Hillary's hearing voices." They aren't objective and she knows that. She picks them because they hate Hillary. And she's done this for month after month. It's why people have caught on to her and any credibility she might have had is destroyed. The only thing that would save her would be to publicly apologize for it. She won't and the ones doing the same after Vietnam never apologized. That's why you went from a thriving independent media scene to one that petered out. That's usually blamed on the public, as if they cared during Vietnam and then they just lost interest.

That's not what happened. They were educated, they were aware and then they saw people of 'integrity' lie to them over and over to play king maker. It's the same thing that's happening today. And we turned off independent media for that reason. My father can tell you that pattern's always been in place and it's why independent media never gets anywhere. They start trying to trick people when they finally establish a name and people aren't idiots.

Jim also brought up some of the things that were really ticking off C.I. and I wasn't surprised by those. For example, Weather Underground. C.I.'s educated with advanced degrees and it's one thing to say, "We need a context" when reality is being discussed but reality's not being discussed. Instead, the actions of Weather Underground are being minimized. Weather Underground was a revolutionary group and they're being treated like a pack of Girl Scouts who sold cookies and Marx. C.I.'s never condemned them because there is a context for the actions but there is a difference between addressing their actions and denying them. So I'm not at all surprised that C.I.'s ticked off. But you're talking about someone who actually is fair (as opposed to FAIR). When Weather Underground was being distorted and the context left out in the 2006 cover story of The Nation, C.I. was happy to explain that wasn't reality. And, by the same token, this whitewashing of Weather Underground that's taking place right now -- by some of the same people trashing Weather two years ago -- isn't reality.

I knew C.I. was ticked off already because I brought up the nonsense offered on CounterSpin yesterday regarding Weather and I could see C.I. stiffen before replying, "I tried to focus on the positive of CounterSpin in the snapshot." We both laughed. But I mean, it's pathetic, the way that people are bending over backwards to rewrite history. (C.I. focused on the CBS News commentary in the snapshot. I'm referring to the commentary that came right before, where FAIR hopped in the tank for Barack -- both by utilizing revisionary history on Weather and by claiming they were addressing an offensive debate but really just propping up Barack.)

I'll be really clear, they were criminals. They were frustrated and the government was equally criminal but I don't tolerate whitewashing of Richard Nixon and I won't go along with whitewashing of Weather. And, honestly, that's another example of how Panhandle Media destroys itself. Those of us who lived through it, know Panhandle Media is whitewashing. Weather wasn't breaking in to offices to reveal COINTELPRO or to burn draft records. They were blowing up buildings as their official actions and most of us know about their unofficial actions, the crimes that took place to stay underground.

This could be a real lesson for American, a chance to grasp what actually happened and why. But Panhandle Media is on their "Save Barry!" mission and so history and reality get tossed aside.

It's disgusting. I hope everyone read Ava and C.I.'s "TV: The Christ-child fumbles" last Sunday. That was reality. They're right. The questions weren't any different than other debates. The problem was Barack couldn't answer. Even on questions he'd spoken at length on.
But FAIR sent out their dumb-ass action alert (and didn't even see their own bias in that anymore than in their commentary on CounterSpin). People do grasp the bias and it's how Panhandle Media destroys itself today.

I like John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton and, to the best of my knowledge, they haven't enlisted in the We Are Zombies For Barack Campaign. I hope they don't. So many others have blown their reputations. There was an e-mail complaining about C.I.'s entry on Sam Graham-Felsen this week. I was confused why I was being written about that to begin with until I got to the point about my father being a Socialist who was a victim during McCarthy. My father was a victim because others chose to stay in the political closet and try to use him to stay there. My father is a Socialist (and I have many family members who are -- if I weren't so lazy, I'd probably have been one myself). There was nothing wrong with what C.I. wrote. But since the stooge was so offended, I told my father about the e-mail to get his opinion. His reply is that a Democratic candidate hires someone with a public history and that goes to who he will appoint and questions of his judgement. Was it "red baiting" as the e-mail accused?

"Socialists and Communists are not dirty words," my father pointed out. "The biggest problem has always been the ones who tried to use trickery. There's no reason for any Socialist or Communist to be in the closet today. There's every reason for them to get out of the closet. There are no witch hunts today and they should be using this time to stregthen their own movements, not propping up a Democratic corporatist. C.I. wrote about the public record and did it in a very humorous way, I thought, and that's not the same as McCarthyism. People crying that are trying to turn Socialism and Communism into dirty words. They're the ones doing the damage. I honestly wish C.I. would out all their lying asses. It would clear the field for the young people today to start real Socialist movements and real Communists ones, too, but I'm less concerned with that. I'm a Socialist who never hid because I believe in Socialism. Those who lie are like Green Party members who said, 'Vote for John Kerry.' They shoot themselves in the foot. I haven't endorsed Barack or Hillary and won't because I'm not a Democrat. If I were to say something in support of either, I would make it clear that I'm a Socialist because that's nothing to be ashamed of. Not to do so would be lying and the liars are what decimated the Socialist movement in this country."

I could write more on the topic but I spoke with Jim about that and he was going to call my father for more amplification on the topic so I assume that's a possible piece at Third. I will say that dishonesty is never good and only imprisons the liar and the alleged movement they supposedly want to build.

Here's "HUBdate: Fair is Fair:"

Fair is Fair: In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Clinton campaign strategist Geoff Garin writes: "The bottom line is that one campaign really has engaged in a mean-spirited, unfair character attack on the other candidate -- but it has been Obama’s campaign, not ours. You would be hard-pressed to find significant analogues from our candidate, our senior campaign officials or our advertising to the direct personal statements that the Obama campaign has made about Clinton." Read More.
$$$: "Hillary Clinton raised $10 million in the 24 hours after winning the Pennsylvania primary, aided by contributions from 80,000 new donors." Read more and keep it going at
An Open Letter From Dr. Maya Angelou: Poet and activist Dr. Maya Angelou wrote an open letter about her commitment to Hillary’s candidacy. "Hillary does not waver in standing up for those who need a champion.... I am supporting Hillary Clinton because I know that she will make the most positive difference in people's lives and she will help our country become what it can be." Read More.
In Case You Missed It: Paul Krugman writes in today's NYT: "From the beginning, I wondered what Mr. Obama’s soaring rhetoric, his talk of a new politics and declarations that 'we are the ones we've been waiting for' (waiting for to do what, exactly?) would mean to families troubled by lagging wages, insecure jobs and fear of losing health coverage. The answer, from Ohio and Pennsylvania, seems pretty clear: not much. Mrs. Clinton has been able to stay in the race, against heavy odds, largely because her no-nonsense style, her obvious interest in the wonkish details of policy, resonate with many voters in a way that Mr. Obama’s eloquence does not." Read more.
Bringing Troops Home with Honor: Yesterday, Hillary highlighted policies for veterans at "Solutions for America” events in Fayetteville and Asheville, NC. It’s rare for a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to endorse a candidate but General Hugh Shelton is backing HRC. In NC yesterday, he said: "Unlike any other candidate, [Hillary] understands that maintaining a well-prepared armed forces goes beyond providing dollars....She is the only candidate who has offered a responsible plan for bringing our troops home with honor." Read more.
Electable…Without FL or OH? The Obama campaign released a memo yesterday on electability, but as Chris Cilizza highlights, "two states that are not mentioned in the Obama memo are Florida, the key battleground in the 2000 presidential race, and Ohio, the Florida of the 2004 contest." Read more.
Debate Watch: Hillary is willing to debate Sen. Obama in North Carolina, Oregon, and Indiana while Sen. Obama continues to resist. His excuse today: "It's not clear that another debate is going to be the best use of our time." Meanwhile Sen. Evan Bayh said this yesterday: "We have thousands of people in Indiana who...deserve an opportunity to see both candidates stand side by side...We in Indiana don’t want to be treated as second-class citizens." Read more and more.
Today on the Trail: In North Carolina, Hillary hosts a "Solutions for America" event in Jacksonville, NC. In Indiana, she hosts "Solutions for the American Economy" events in Bloomington, East Chicago, and Fort Wayne. She also meets with steelworkers to discuss creating and protecting jobs in Gary.

I would strongly urge you to read Maya Angelou's wonderful piece linked to above as well as Paul Krugman's also linked to above. Paul Krugman really is one of the heroes of this election season.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday:

Friday, April 25, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, an oversight exploration announces Iraqi Forces figures are wrong, the VA scandals continue and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Claudia Feldman (Houston Chronicle) reported a week ago on consientious objector Hart Vines and his participation at Iraq Veterans Against the War's Winter Soldier (IVAW's Ronn Cantu who started the first IVAW chapter in Texas, at Fort Hood, is also covered in the article). Feldman reports:

One of his jobs in Iraq was to stand guard with a .50-caliber machine gun while his buddies searched houses supposedly inhabited by insurgents and enemy combatants. At the conference, searches of that kind were described vividly. Sometimes soldiers kicked in the front doors. Sometimes they upended refrigerators and ripped stoves out of walls. Sometimes they turned drawers upside down and broke furniture.
One day Viges was instructed to search a suspicious house, a hut, really, but he couldn't find pictures of Saddam Hussein, piles of money, AK-47s or roadside bombs.
"The only thing I found was a little .22 pistol," Viges said, " ... but we ended up taking the two young men, regardless."
An older woman, probably the mother of the young men, watched and wailed nearby.
"She was crying in my face, trying to kiss my feet," Viges said. "And, you know, I can't speak Arabic, but I can speak human. She was saying, 'Please, why are you taking my sons? They have done nothing wrong.' "

dropping back to a September 2005 speech he gave, here's what happened once he returned to the US:

And after I came home I've come to realise that we've got to make better choices, I applied for Conscientious Objector [status]. I was able to remember the Sermon on the Mount. I'm a Christian, what was I doing holding a gun to another human being? Love thy neighbour. Do good for him. Pray for those who persecute you, don't shoot them. I get my Conscientious Objector packet approved. I'm alone. I'm free, I'm done. It's all gone now, right? No! I still swerve at trash bagsfireworks. I'm looking at everyone's hands and faces [tonight] to see who's going to want to shoot me. I can't express anything, I can't express love. All my relationships are falling apart because they can't f**king understand me. How do they know the pain that I've gone through or the sights that I've seen, the dead bodies? The innocence gone, stripped, dead? I couldn't do it myself. I couldn't stand the pain. People were leaving me. I was alone. I couldn't cut my wrists. So I called the police. They come stomping through my door. I have my knife in my hand. "Shoot me. Shoot me". All of a sudden I was the man with the RPG, with all the guns pointed at him. Misled, miseducated, thinking that "Yes, we can solve all the world's problems by killing each other". How insane is that? Lucky enough I lived through that episode as well. See, you can't wash your hands when they're covered in blood with more blood. It's impossible; the wounds carry on. Families are destroyed.

Meanwhile, in Canada, many US war resisters are currently hoping to be granted safe harbor status and the Canadian Parliament will debate a measure this month on that issue. You can make your voice heard. Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb,
Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Jose Vasquez, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Jason Marek, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

Turning to the Dept of Veteran Affairs.
Pia Malbran (CBS News) reports that, "While on the stand in California federal court" yesterday, "where the VA is facing a lawsuit filed by veteran advocates who are demanding better health care, Dr. Michael Kussman, the VA's Under Secretary for Health, said, 'I Disagree with the premise that there was some effort to cover up something.' On March 10 of this year, Everett Chasen, the chief communications officer for the VA's Veterans Health Administration (VHA) sent an e-mail message to several top agency officials including Kussman. At the time, CBS News was preparing a report about attempted suicides among VA patients. Chasen wrote, 'I don't want to give CBS any more numbers on veteran suicides or attempts than they already have -- it will only lead to more questions'." CBS News has been covering this story for some time. Today Peter Hart (FAIR's CounterSpin) explained:

Sadly, there's no end of examples of US journalists accepting and parroting official government statistics without challenge so when we find a case of an outlet actually questioning an official source and bringing that challenge to the public it seems worth taking note of. Last year
CBS Evening News reported what they and others have called an "epidemic of suicides" among those who have served in the US military. The network noted that there were more than 6,200 such suicides in the year 2005. Those numbers were challenged however by the Department of Veterans Affairs head of mental health Dr. Ira Katz who insisted that CBS had it wrong, the suicide rate for vets was actually no higher than normal. In a distrubing April 21st follow-up, however, CBS provided evidence that those numbers were not wrong and evidently that's why the VA didn't want the public to know them. CBS reporter Armen Keteyian noted that the VA recently provided date indicating just 790 attempted suicides by vets in all of 2007; however, Keteyian had access to an e-mail Katz sent to his top media advisor in which the VA official said something dramatically different acknowledging that "our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among veterans we see in our medical facilities." That's pretty far removed from the 790 a year the VA had reported to CBS and consequently to the public. Even more disturbing is the evidence that Katz knows he's actively misinforming the public on this critical issue. His e-mail was titled "Not for the CBS News interview request" and the opening line was "Sh!" The note closed with Katz' concern: "Is this something we should carefully address before someone stumbles on it?" Clearly this is a story that will require further follow-up to find out what else the VA would like to hide from the public about yet another of the devastating impacts of the war on Iraq. We certainly hope CBS will continue in the way they've started out and that they won't be alone.

Note on the above, all links in Peter Hart's commentary go to CBS News which has text and video for each link and the e-mail itself, PDF format warning, is
here. Bob Egelko (San Francisco Chronicle) reports that Kussman stated on the stand yesterday, "The number of patients who have adjustment reactions to the experience that they have in Afghanistan or Iraq is very important, but we don't believe that's mental illness. It would be unfair and inappropriate to stigmatize people with a mental health diagnosis when they are having what most people believe are normal reactions to abnormal situations." There is no care or concern, just a desire to cut down on expenses. Diagnosis the mental health disorder requires that it be treated. Dropping back to IVAW's Winter Soldier Investigation last month:

Adrienne Kinne: And then they went to go to the next step, to actually make this happen. And I was actually on a conference call when someone said, "Wait a second. We can't start this screening process. Do you know that if we start screening for TBI there will be tens of thousands of soldiers who will screen positive and we do not have the resources available that would allow us to take care of these people so we cannot do the screening." And their rationale was that medically, medical ethics say if you know someone has a problem, you have to treat them. So since they didn't have the resources to treat them, they didn't want to know about the problem.
That's the reality for refusing to diagnose, Kinne's point that the VA would then be ethically bound to treat. If you missed Winter Soldier you can stream online at
Iraq Veterans Against the War, at War Comes Home, at KPFK, at the Pacifica Radio homepage and at KPFA, here for Friday, here for Saturday, here for Sunday. Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz were the anchors for Pacifica's live coverage. Kinne testified Friday afternoon. Wednesday saw the VA's deputy chief Gordon Mansfield facing questions from the Senate's Veterans Affairs Committee. Armen Keteyian and Pia Malbran (CBS News, link has text and video) reported that Senator Patty Murray questioned him about how anyone could have faith in statements from the VA since "every time we trun around we find out that what you're saying publicly is different from what you're saying privately?" Les Blumenthal (Seattle Times) quotes Murray stating, "I used to teach preschool, and when you bring up a 3-year-old and tell them they have to stop lying, they understand the consequences. The VA doesn't. They needed to stop hiding the fact this war is costing us in so many ways." Murray also noted, "I am very angry upset that we find out this week that several inernal VA e-mails that were made public -- not becuase you wanted them to, but because of a lawsuit that ws ongoing -- showed that the VA downplayed significantly the number of suicides and suicide attempts by veterans in the last several years. Just a few months ago in November the VA was confronted with an analysis that said there were 6,250 veterans who had committed suicide in 2005 an average of 17 a day. VA officials said that number was inaccurate, it was much lower. These e-mails that were uncovered this week show that Dr. Katz, who is the VA's top mental health official, not only backed up those alleged numbers but he acknowledged that the numbers were much higher than that. So what they were telling us in November and December was that the number was lower but inside the VA everyone knew it was higher. And there are e-mails saying that and showing that". Thursday on the Senate floor, during a vote on the Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act, Murray stated the following:

And just this week, we got more evidence that the Administration has been covering up the extent of the toll this war has taken on our troops. Internal e-mails that became public in a court hearing show that the VA has vastly downplayed the number of suicides and suicide attempts by veterans in the last several years. Last November, an analysis by CBS News found that over 6,200 veterans had committed suicide in 2005 -- an average of 17 a day.
When confronted, VA officials said the numbers were much lower. But according to the internal e-mails from the VA's head of Mental Health -- Dr. Ira Katz -- 6,570 veterans committed suicide in 2005 -- an average of 18 a day. The e-mails also revealed that VA officials know that another 1,000 veterans -- who are receiving care at VA medical facilities -- attempt suicide each month.
Mr. President, these numbers offer tragic evidence that our nation is failing thousands of veterans a year. And they reflect an Administration that has failed to own up to its responsibilities, and failed even to own up to the true impact of the war on its veterans.
What is most appalling to me is that this is not the first time the VA has covered up the problems facing veterans who sacrificed for our country. Time and again, the VA has told us one thing in public -- while saying something completely different in private. It is outrageous to me that VA officials would put public appearance ahead of people's lives. Yet, Mr. President, it appears that is what has happened again.
When we -- as members of Congress -- sit down to determine the resources to give the VA, we must have a true picture of the needs. And if there's a problem, we have to act. It's our duty -- and the duty of the Administration -- to care for veterans. By covering up the true extent of that problem, the VA has hindered our ability to get those resources to the veterans who need them. That is irresponsible, and it's wrong.

Senator Daniel K. Akaka has joined Murray in calling for Ira Katz' resignation. Meanwhile C.W. Nevius (San Francisco Chronicle) reports on the attorney handling the lawsuit against the VA, Gordon Erspamer: "He's a rainmaker attorney for a major firm in the city who has set aside time to take legal action that doesn't earn a penny. And besides that, he's got a compelling and personal back story and a chip on his shoulder to prove it. Erspamer's cause since the late '70s has been the rights of armed forces veterans, and this week's trial has the VA squirming over a shocking rate of suicides among vets and has captured the national spotlight." Aimee Allison and Aaron Glantz hosted a live report on KPFA about the trial Tuesday and Gordon Erspamer was interviewed in the first hour.

Yesterday, the Office of the Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction released a report entitled [PDF format warning] "
Intermim Analysis of Iraqi Security Force Information Provided By The Department Of Defense Report, Measuring Stability And Security In Iraq." Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) reports, "The U.S. military does not have an accurate tally of the number of Iraqi security forces who have been trained or who are present for duty . . . The study says some Iraqi soldiers and police who were killed or wounded in action remain on the payroll so their families can receive financial compensation, skewing the statistics. . . . Reinforcing earlier findings, Special Inspector General Stuart W. Bowen Jr. and other officials said the data being provided to the U.S. military were inaccurate." William H. McMichael (Army Times) adds that "thousands of others counted as present for duty are not showing up for work because they're injured, on leave or absent without leave . . ." The 21-page report (13 of text and then additional notes) also states, "Evolving changes in reporting methodology make it difficult to compare information from one report to earlier reports." Page five notes of the Defense Dept's most recent report, "Although the March 2008 Section 9010 report, as well as earlier ones, presents an array of numbers, other information in the 9010 reports and elsewhere indicates (1) uncertainty about the number of Iraqi personnel who are present for duty at any one time; and (2) uncertainty about the capabilities of the police force because the police have greater capacity to recruit that to train -- this limits the number of police on the rolls who have been trained. In addition, shortages of officers and/or non-commissioned officers in both the police and defense forces remain a significant long-term challenge that could take a decade to address."

Which fits in with
Demetri Sevastopulo (Financial Times of London) observation that Nouri al "Maliki's campaign" assault on Basra "has resulted in US troops deploying to Basra and left the UK with no choice but to provide additional support to the operation. One person familiar with US military planning in Iraq said the 'fiasco' started by Mr Maliki had 'forced the hand of the British' to support the Iraqi government, in addition to the current core mission of training Iraqi forces." And the strain comes as Daniel Bentley (The Scotsman) reports, "British troop numbers in Iraq will only be futher reducded 'if conditions allow', Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, said yesterday." The numbers also matter in terms of The Petraeus & Crocker Variety Hour earlier this month. Repeatedly the numbers now known to be non-reliable were cited as 'proof' of 'advances'. Gen David Petraeus' seven-page prepared remarks always cited the numbers of Iraqi Forces:

A number of factors have contributed to the progress that has been made. First, of course, has been the impact of increased numbers of Coalition and Iraqi Forces. You are well aware of the U.S. surge. Less recognized is that Iraq has also conducted a surge, adding well over 100,000 additional soldiers and police to the ranks of its security forces in 2007 and slowly increasing its capability to deploy and employ these forces.[. . .] A second factor has been the employment of Coalition and Iraqi Forces have grown significantly since September, and over 540,000 individuals now servein the Iraqi Security Forces. The number of combat battalions capable of taking the lead in operations, albeit with some Coalition support, has grown to well over 100 [Slide 10]. These units are bearing an increasing share of the burden, as evidenced by the fact that Iraqi Security Force losses have recently been three times our own. We will, of course, conduct careful after action reviews with our Iraqi partners in the wake of recent operations, as there were units andleaders found wanting in some cases, and some of our assessments may be downgraded as a result. Nonetheless, the performance of many units was solid, especially once they got their footing and gained a degree of confidence, and certain Iraqi elements proved quite capable.Underpinning the advances of the past year have been improvements in Iraq's security institutions. An increasingly robust Iraqi-run training base enabled the Iraqi Security Forces to grow by over 133,000 soldiers and police over the past 16 months. And the still-expanding training base is expected to generate an additional 50,000 Iraqi soldiers and 16 Army and Special Operations battalions throughout the rest of 2008, along with over 23,000 police and 8 National Police battalions.

AFP reports, "Iraq's hardline Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Friday called upon his followers and security forces to stop the bloodshed a week after he warned of 'open war' against the government." Deborah Haynes (Times of London) quotes him stating, "I call upon my brothers in the army, police and al-Mahdi Army to stop the bloodshed. When we threatend an open war, it was meant against the occupation and not against our people. There will be no war between Sadrists and Iraqi brothers from any groups." And the UN human rights envoy, Radhika Coomaraswamy declared today of Iraqi children, "Many of them are no longer go to school, many are recruited for violent activitis or detained in custody, they lack access to the most basic services and manifest a wide range of psychological symptoms from the violence in their everyday lives."

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Tikrit car bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer, a Falluja mosque bombing that claimed 1 life and left four people wounded and notes two US air bombings of Baghdad after night fall yesterday that claimed the lives of 13 people and wounded forty (those numbers are US military numbers).


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an armed clash in Baghdad with three Iraqi soldiers wounded and 5 "gunmen" killed. CBS and AP report: "Assailants on Friday gunned down an Iraqi journalist who had been working for a local radio station run by a Shiite political party that is the chief rival of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the station and police said. Jassim al-Batat was killed by gunmen in a speeding car as he left his house in the town of Qurna in his own car, said Adnan al-Asadi, the head of the local al-Nakhil radio station based in the southern city of Basra. Qurna is 55 miles north of Basra." Reuters quotes al-Asadi explaining, "His only concerns were his work and his family. He was liked by all his colleagues, and we don't know any reason why he should be killed." Reuters also notes 1 adult male shot dead outside his Iskandariya home, 1 fisherman shot dead in Mosul (another injured), 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul and 2 people shot dead in Iskandariya.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

US military announced today: "A Multi-National Division -- Center Soldier was killed in an improvised explosive device attack south of Baghdad, April 24." The announcement brings to 4052 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.

Turning to US politics. First up, Wednesday's snapshot referenced Big Tent Democrat's post (TalkLeft) on the nonsense of Tom Hayden -- the latest nonsense from a lifetime of nonsense but the link was wrong. My apologies.
The correct link is here. Wednesday night, Elaine provided the letter Hayden needs to write -- the public letter -- and why no woman need listen to him until he does. (Not that they need to listen to him after, for that matter.) Wednesday night, Taylor Marsh also weighed in on Tom's nonsense and, let me repeat something here, Tom invents things. He invents conversations that allegedly happened years ago when he needs them for modern times. We've avoided commenting on his current wife here because who knows what the woman did or didn't know. Tom loves to embellish a tale. But the point is that he's a longterm sexist and no women needs him speaking for her. On the topic of sexists, Keith Olberman of MSNBC, as Jeralyn (TalkLeft) points out, made a comment on air that has some wondering if he was calling for Hillary Clinton to be assaulted or murdered: "Hyperbole? A figure of speech? Sexist? Or a call to snuff her out?" Joan Walsh (Salon) explains Olberman has 'apologized' -- he still doesn't get how offensive his statement was and how his add-on only more so. He gets that it sounded to some like murder but he still doesn't get (and Walsh doesn't appear to either) that the "apology" is still stating a woman needs to be taken into a room and forced "politically" out of the race. It's undemocratic and, with his pattern, it's sexist. Susan UnPC (No Quarter), writing before the 'apology,' gets it very clearly, "Take notice of his use of the pronoun 'he'." Meanwhile Paul Krugman (New York Times) examines the working class support for Hillary Clinton and how Obama still -- all these months later -- can't connect with those voters? Jonathan Mann (CNN) explains, "Hillary is back. Until now, Hillary Clinton's campaign hd one consistent quality -- it kept coming up short. . . . The biggest question about her campaign was when it would finally succumb to being so second-place. This week that changed. She won the Pennsylvania primary by 10 percentage points, a margin that convinced contributors to flood her Internet site with $10 million."

Seth Bringman ( explains "
Hillary Clinton's Plan to Address the Student Loan Crisis:"

Over a year ago, Hillary Clinton called on the Bush Administration to address the growing problems in the subprime mortgage market. Instead of listening, President Bush stood by as the subprime crisis spiraled into a larger housing and credit crisis that is driving our economy downward. This economic crisis now threatens to claim another victim: student loans. As the result of the credit crunch, more than 50 student lenders, accounting for almost 14% of private student-loan volume, have already withdrawn from the guaranteed student loan program [Wall Street Journal, A3, 4/24/08]. Hundreds of thousands of students who are actively considering how to finance their college educations could be left in the lurch, without the ability to pay for college. And when those students are not able to college, that is not only tragic for them but a loss for our economy as a college graduate earns $1 million more over the course of their lifetime than someone with a high school diploma.
Now is the time to act to prevent a student lending crisis. In Indiana, where six of every ten students graduate with debt, and that debt averages $21,000, it is vital that we ensure that every Hoosier student can count on the loans they need to attend school in the fall [Project on Student Debt]. Today, Hillary laid out her plan for addressing the student loan crisis. She urged the Bush Administration to support her plan, and act swiftly to head-off this growing crisis.

That's the opening use the link for the itemized list.
Marlon Marshall offers a photo essay of Hillary at the "Solutions for the American Economy" in Indianapolis. And we'll go out with this from Geoff Garin's "Fair Is Fair" (Washington Post):

What's wrong with this picture? Our campaign runs a TV ad Monday saying that the presidency is the toughest job in the world and giving examples of challenges presidents have faced and challenges the next president will face -- including terrorism, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, mounting economic dislocation, and soaring gas prices. The ad makes no reference -- verbal, visual or otherwise -- to our opponent; it simply asks voters to think about who they believe is best able to stand the heat. And we are accused, by some in the media, of running a fear-mongering, negative ad.The day before this ad went on the air,
David Axelrod, Barack Obama's chief strategist, appeared with me on "Meet the Press." He was asked whether Hillary Clinton would bring "the changes necessary" to Washington, and his answer was "no." This was in keeping with the direct, personal character attacks that the Obama campaign has leveled against Clinton from the beginning of this race -- including mailings in Pennsylvania that describe her as "the master of a broken system."So let me get this straight.On the one hand, it's perfectly decent for Obama to argue that only he has the virtue to bring change to Washington and that Clinton lacks the character and the commitment to do so. On the other hand, we are somehow hitting below the belt when we say that Clinton is the candidate best able to withstand the pressures of the presidency and do what's right for the American people, while leaving the decisions about Obama's preparedness to the voters.Who made up those rules? And who would ever think they are fair?

aaron glantz