Friday, April 11, 2008

Potato and Ham Casserole in the Kitchen

Potato and Ham Casserole
Diced ham (as you have on hand)
6 large baking potatoes, peeled and sliced
cheese (of choice)
1 onion chopped
1 cup of milk

In a casserole dish, layer the bottom with potato slices. Pepper the slices. (You can also salt if you want. I don't.) Add onions (not a full layer of onions, more like you're dotting). Add ham (same as with onions). Do a layer of potatoes followed by onions and ham, repeating with the final topping being a layer of onions. Add milk. (Pour over top.) Bake in an oven at 325 degrees for one hour with the top covered. In the last ten minutes, remove from the oven, add cheese to the top and cook (uncovered) for ten more minutes.

Brenda and her boyfriend were expecting her parents last weekend. She e-mailed "9/11 Crisis" on Tuesday. She'd purchased a ham but, due to an illness, her parents had to cancel (they'll be coming in June). She went ahead and cooked the ham. They had it Saturday night along with a ton of leftovers. She assumed she and her boyfriend would have a day or two of ham sandwiches but the ham was more than she thought and they were getting sick of sandwiches. So she wanted anything easy recipe wise that included ham. She had enough to make two casseroles and reports it turned out fine.

So that's this week's recipe and let me note that 19 US service members have been announced dead since the start of the week. Why isn't that a headline on any paper?
It's not like Iraq wasn't a focus last week due to the hearings in Congress.

On that, the House Veterans Affairs Committee met April 9th to discuss homeless veterans. I wasn't sure what to write about tonight and C.I. kindly handed over notes on a variety of topics. I saw the notes marked homeless veterans and made sure it was okay? It was (C.I. hoped to discuss that hearing in today's snapshot; however, there wasn't time and, after doing three days of hearings in the snapshots, C.I. was pretty much burned out on Congressional hearings.)

As I read over the notes, there were some very strong testimonies. Michelle Saunders was probably the strongest. She's a veteran with ten years of service. I was reading over C.I.'s notes and I said, "I wish I'd seen this hearing." C.I. said to put in that she speaks just like Jodie Foster. And that's apparently for real. C.I. said if anyone had a brain, they'd be lining up a project for Jodie Foster.

I'll get back to that.

Among the things she shared in her testimony was her adjustment to civilian life. She's now working on a program to help veterans transition to civilian life. She, and some members of Congress, agreed that was very much needed. It was pointed out that when you go into the military (she was in the Army), you have boot camp training but when you leave, you just leave. It was thought that your last month or two should be some sort of training to assist you transitioning.

I hope it's okay, by the way, that I'm summarizing and not quoting. C.I. took these notes and did so in shorthand. I understand C.I.'s shorthand but am not sure what is a direct quote and what's a summary. And I don't want to go ask which seems rude. "Thanks for the notes, this was an amazing hearing, can you also now tell me which are direct quotes?" I have a feeling that it's all direct quotes because that's generally how C.I. takes notes with parenthetical comments (including on one jerk at the hearings who was rude, he serves on the committee).

For Saunders, she was asked why, since she seemed so well "today," she had any trouble adjusting after leaving the service? She replied that she had no trouble doing resumes but she really didn't feel she had anything to offer. She said that's a problem with a lot of veterans. In some cases that's because they don't realize the skills they have and in other cases it has to do with the fact that there is such a difference between the two settings.

When a question was tossed out to the entire first panel, she answered that, yes, she thought all veterans should be screened for TBI and PTSD. She spoke very movingly about serving in Iraq, or any combat zone, and how you're doing things (such as shooting at anyone when you're attempting to get out of being cornered) and how this is a wound. The things that you're taught to do in a war zone have an impact and require healing. She spoke of many traumas that you can experience while serving. And on PTSD and TBI she was very to the point that it needs to be addressed.

Her biggest point was that nothing is really being addressed when you leave. That's a point many have made besides her so it shouldn't surprise anyone. But veterans are discharging without the needed resources and, very important, without knowing the resources that do exist but they're not made aware of.

Adrienne Kinne, at Winter Soldier, spoke about this in terms of her two times of enlistment. She explained that when she discharged the first time (1998), she was walked through the resources, she had help filling out paperwork. But she signed back up after 9-11 and when she discharged the second time, they were just pushing you out the door and no one made the time to explain resources.

So what Saunders is doing is creating a program/organization that will address this fall off. She's lined up many corporations willing to sponsor it.

She reads very intelligent and I'm sure she sounded that way as well. I read back over it after C.I. said she sounds (voice wise) just like Jodie Foster and I really could see her story (including what she's doing now) as a movie starring Foster. It would probably raise awareness of the issues and also help with the organization she's creating.

It's too late for me (long day), but C.I. just walked in and I mentioned about wishing I'd seen this. You can see it by clicking here. The House Committee on Veterans Affairs streams all their open hearings live and then archives them. That's a wonderful use of our tax dollars because I'm sure many people, especially veterans, would like to do more than see the single sentence in the paper (when a hearing even gets that).

They also have Michelle Saunders' opening statement in full posted (text):

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I want to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to testify on behalf of myself and my fellow veterans both current and future. My name is Michelle Saunders and I am a wounded veteran from Operation Iraqi Freedom. I went through my transition from the military to the civilian sector in May of 2006. Prior to my getting injured on May 1st, 2004, I was motivated, proud, extremely physically fit and ready to wear the uniform for at least another twenty years of my life, I was a career soldier. After hearing the words "your military career has come to a halt" I went through some serious hardships that I never imagined going through, as most veterans do today.

The military had taught me some of the most valuable tools and how to apply them in order to be a successful leader; I thought for sure I was going to be ok in my transition because of all the "promises" that had been made by veteran service providers and folk who already transitioned and had jobs. The day I left the gates of Walter Reed, I never imagined in a million years that I would ever look back. The reality was and still is, it's by far the worst relationship I had to walk away from. Aside from being angry, broken and in complete emotional turmoil, I fell into serious financial hardship and a serious state of depression to the point where I held a loaded gun to my head on many lonely nights. The only thing that stopped me was my lack of selfishness and what it would do to my family. I have always been a person of pride and strength, I felt like I was completely stripped of every shred down to the core. I had literally lost my own self worth.

After many months of trying so desperately to find a job and barely escaping homelessness, by the grace of god I was fortunate enough to be at the right place at the right time. I was offered a job at the military severely injured center as an employment coordinator for the Department of Labor, it seemed a bit ironic since I had just gone through the trials and tribulations of finding a job. I was interviewed on a Tuesday afternoon, that night I was asked to attend a wounded summit conference that following Thursday in Alabama. I was so excited just to know I had a job that I forgotten about the fact I had no money to make travel arrangements. I thought to myself how incredibly embarrassing it would be to ask for a cash advance just to cover my travel expenses on my first day of work. I had literally exhausted all of my resources and had no time. I hung my head and called my new boss at ten pm and explained my situation, he soon became my angel as he told me to breathe and took care of everything.

Finally, I arrived in Alabama at 3 am and I was able to sleep for three hrs before having to get up for the conference, the conference I knew nothing about. Little did I know that I was going to be asked to speak in front of many of our senior military and government leadership. I was asked to speak about my experiences of being wounded and the struggles I faced in the after math. I remember having severe anxiety about speaking and exposing my living hell, let alone in front of such a large crowd however; the scariest part was having to speak next to, two other wounded veterans- veterans with visible disabilities, veterans with amputations.

That feeling of losing self worth had started to surface again because for so long, I didn't feel worthy or injured enough to be standing next to them. Sure I had been in a combat zone accompanied by multiple mortar attacks, serious fire fights, loss of good friends and sustained serious back injuries, but I had all my limbs and some sense of sanity. At that moment I realized that if I were to run out of that room, I would never have an opportunity to release all of what I was harboring. This was clearly a major pivotal point in my life.

I decided to speak last, so I was clear in my thoughts, as I had no idea what to expect. After listening to the two amputees ahead of me I realized at that moment, that I was different, I was in a totally different category-the category that clearly over shadows our visible wounded heroes. People fail to realize that a visible wounded hero has someone by their bedside twenty-four hrs a day seven days a week. Where as the "invisible" wounded heroes are overlooked on a daily basis. These thoughts were circling my head over and over but in a good way, good because I was in a position to finally embrace the hard "stuff" and help those who can’t voice the pain that is eating them alive, so I thought anyway…

I felt liberated after I walked off that stage, I felt as though my voice finally penetrated the core of the systemic issues that so many of us veterans share day to day. I had Viet Nam and other era veterans coming up to me in tears, just to say "thank you, you have said all the things that we could not say, or find the words to say"

When I left the conference, I was so eager to get in the trenches and start figuring the best strategic approach on how to stop the bleeding, but little did I know it was like trying to put a band-aid on a sucking chest wound. I soon started to see the blackness of bureaucracy from the inside as opposed to being the victim on the outside. I started to see how a "success" was measured by a number, how a problem would disappear when it was time to report to the higher chain of command, how the "collaborating" agencies would point fingers at each other of all the pitfalls and the hic-ups, but would leverage each other for the “successes”. After reading that, one may ask or presume I am bitter. The answer is, I am not bitter, I am disappointed and I am embarrassed. I am disappointed because I stand next to people every day who are in the positions to make effective change, who make six plus figure salaries a year and are able to go home at night and provide for their families just to start over the next day. I am embarrassed because I can't financially afford to bite the hand that feeds me. For me, it's a little different, I go home at night and I am in pain because I know that my brothers and sisters who once stood by my side at arms and always covered me, are gasping for air because they're worried about where the next pocket of money is coming from, their VA appeal claims, their lack of credentials, because of what their families may think of their, once proud American soldier. These are the parts of the transition that holds the needed healing of the broken soul, how do you heal when you can’t stop firing squad?

We are still repeating history in a sense that during the 1970’s and 1980s, our streets were crawling with Vietnam War veterans with the same issues. The only difference today is our veterans are not being ignored by society and the government is being held accountable. For the first time Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are being recognized as issues and they are abnormal conditions caused by combat trauma and combat stress. We live in a society that does not accept murder as something "normal". We live in a society that is spiritual and compassionate by nature regardless of religious beliefs. When these horrific acts are witnessed or are performed by an American soldier in a time of war, it breaks the spirit in a way that can’t be defined. However, we are expected to act "normal" when we arrive back to our home soil. In addition our peers are forced to look at us different and weak because of the mentality of our senior military leadership, we are "STRONG" warriors that aren’t supposed to feel, yet we must follow the rules of the Geneva Convention because our morals and beliefs as a nation dictate. Yes there are services in place for those who "need it" but there is a silent voice that is extremely loud that puts those who "need it" in a corner. Fortunately, the American population as a whole is finally pushing back because they understand what our eyes see across the water is not "normal" however; there is still an uncomfortable stigma that is associated with this. Society as a whole wants to help, but that help must happen away from their children and their neighborhoods. We are making a difference however, the flood gates have been opened and an enormous amount of water has fractured the backbone of our infrastructure. It is up to those who can speak for the ones who can not. WE MUST INFORM, EDUCATE AND PROMOTE AWARENESS. The blind eye approach is NOT working; it is MUCH bigger than us, so we must take a different approach.

The million dollar question is "how do we fix it?" First, we must understand our veterans are fighting two wars, one across the water and one here on the home front. The concept and words "Support our Troops" seems to be everywhere you look today, from yellow ribbons to American flags to the "support the troops" bumper stickers, but do we really know what the reality of "support" means. We will never know how to properly support the veteran population as long as the “right” questions are not being asked and we will continue to have those veterans who will "fall" through the cracks and become a statistic in the homeless veteran population.

I will attempt to illustrate where the flood gates are broken, the following line items are currently staring us in the eye of the systemic core:

Inability for the services to admit that "PTSD" is an issue: Until the senior leadership of the military comes forward and recognizes that combat trauma is notnormal then we as a society will continue to see it as a stigma and continue to work in a vacuum.

How do we heal if we can't sleep?

How do we heal if we are hyper vigilant in every facet of our days?

How do we heal if we have social withdrawal because we feel so disconnected?

How do we heal when our own leaders keep us at an arms distance and call this disorder a "personality disorder"-- in turn ending in an even bigger stigma?

Lack of accountability and collaboration of agencies: We are finding that more and more agencies and service components are wanting to "take care of their own" however, what the services/service providers are missing is that there must be case management across all lines, that is the only approach when dealing with physical and psychological wounds. No matter what a person’s situation, there is a history and it must be captured. In the case of the VA, the military must make that "warm" hand off. In the case of the Department of Labor, the VA must determine someone employment ready, there are many steps that must take place before a subject matter expert can consider someone "employment ready" We also must stop counting numbers as a measurement of success. Just because a veteran request services doesn't mean they're a success because they were entered into a data base. There is way too much anecdotal information that is being reported as successes in order to continue the fluff that is delivered to congress in the exchange of funding. This is clear reason why congress and our administration are being bastardized on a daily basis not only here in our own country but across the world, this is why we as a nation are so divided and we’re repeating history yet again.

Program Qualifications: All programs must have a certain criteria in place in order to provide and deliver services, of course for their continuity. However, when the criteria's are different across the board even though the mission is the same, it can seriously complicate matters. Examples:

Who is the authorizing authority to determine someone "seriously injured"

If someone is not able to work because of serious PTSD why should he or she have to prove time and time again their condition, if it is clearly stated in their VA disability record?

Why do almost all current providers only work with OIF/OEF, when we have other veterans from other eras that desperately need services?

Why do veterans have to be homeless before they receive a grant? We should not be taking the re-active approach; we should be taking the pro-active approach. That is why we as a government spend so much money on R&D to better the future; we are a much smarter society to allow these pitfalls.

We MUST understand that the entire family is fractured when a service member is injured physically and or psychologically and we MUST treat and provide services to the whole family

Identification Issues: When a service member is injured down range and medically evacuated, the service member still carry's their original unit identification code (UIC). This particular issue is creating long-term identification issues for. Because of this standard operating procedure it creates problems for the following reasons:

Once the service member has arrived at the medical treatment facility there is a determination made whether or not that service member will be attached to a wounded transition brigade (WTB) or they will be assigned.

Attached and assigned are two different categories. This means that if a wounded service member is attached, then he or she will then carry two UIC codes until he or she has been assigned due to long-term care needs or identified for separation.

Those who have been augmented from other Active, Reserve and National Guard units fall between the cracks almost automatically because these individuals were never considered permanent party in the first place and once they are considered “broken” they’re no longer wanted on the roster, so the unit in combat can fill that billet immediately.

Service members who are put into a temporary retired disabled category (TRDL) and sent to a civilian based health care organization (CBCHO). Once in this category a lot of service members are being put out of the service and not followed up through the VA or the military therefore resulting in "falling through the cracks" this particular population, often times are forgotten and are unaware of their benefits and services available to them.

Recommendation: Once a service member is injured down rand he or she should automatically be assigned a second identifier that will allow the outgoing unit and the potential incoming unit to keep one hundred percent accountability. Recovery coordinators must be assigned immediately to maintain continuity. (On a personal note it took Walter Reed six months to realize I was even there. In addition my unit informed me that if I wanted to go back to Hawaii I could and they would arrange with or without the facilitation of Walter Reed, not a bad deal if you just want to run away because you just cant deal mentally.)

Veterans struggle to find employment: Currently the average age of our veterans today are between the ages of 19-25. It is the reality that of being in such a young age group which often masks the very accomplishments and career progression that also reflects the approximate time and grade of a service member anywhere between the ranks of private through sergeant. In the eyes of the military a sergeant has the ability to lead, manage and supervise approximately 6-8 people under multitudes of stress however, in the corporate world this is something foreign. There are many challenges in the way of disabled veterans finding gainful employment, to include the competition of young college graduates chomping at the bit for sinking their teeth into the best corporate positions possible. With today's competitive society, power is knowledge and often equates to increased earning potential. Realistically without these tools/credentials our veterans are automatically at a disadvantage the minute they leave the gates of the military instillations. Being a nation at war, with back to back deployments our military do not have the option to go to school. After being discharged, many are relegated to lower paying jobs simply to make ends meet and will not have the time to utilize and maximize their educational benefits due to the stress of keeping food on the table and a roof over their families heads. Coupled with a disability and a competitive labor market many of our heroes are falling into homelessness. We as a nation need not only protect our veteran population but we need to equip them with the proper tools and an environment to ensure they’re ready for the 21st century workforce.

Traumatic Service member's Group Life Insurance (TSGLI): This one time payout of $25k up to $100k is causing SERIOUS debt for our wounded coming back. Regardless of the financial counseling, a person who has never received this kind of money is going to spend it the way they want to, in addition the financial decisions being made while under heavy narcotics and other medications are creating serious financial hardships. A large number of our younger service members are over 30k in debt due to the misuse of funds.

Recommendation: If the payment is made through the VA insurance provider, then perhaps have the money added to the veterans already disability pay. In the event that a wounded service member while still on active duty falls under financial hardship, then they should be able to file for a cash advance to cover the vital expenses at that current time. This should also apply to veterans that are already receiving disability compensation. Keep in mind most of our newly discharged veterans are between the ages of 19-25 years of age.

We as a country are protected by the gate keepers who wear the uniform for the purpose of keeping peace of such a great nation. We as a country can not and must not fail those who didn't fail us. We can do no less, we owe them that, we owe them a future.

In the notes, C.I. pretty much has that word for word. (Which generally indicates C.I.'s dead tired and taking word-for-word notes to stay awake.) I think Michelle Saunders' statement is worth posting in full. In the questioning, there's a point C.I. has starred and underlined where Saunders is responding to questions about suicide (one of the members of Congress had a constituent who committed suicide in Iraq and her family was treated very poorly) and noting that if you're commander would be treating it as nothing to be ashamed of then no one on the right or left of you (in lineup) would be looking at you strangely. They are the ones who could remove the stigma. I know why C.I. starred that without even asking, "Hey, why did you . . .?" It's the point C.I.'s made repeatedly with PTSD. Most recently when that military doctor was so proud of his 'program' that had done nothing but produce a pamphlet to 'raise awareness' on PTSD. You don't need to be handing out pamphlets to the enlisted and call that 'work.' If you want to change the attitude on PTSD, you go to the leadership. You get them to change their attitudes and to speak about. The same as Michelle Saunders talks about with regards to suicide.

She also spoke of, and this is an important point, the similarities between the returning now and during Vietnam. I'm saying this is important because someone reading this may have served in Vietnam or have a loved one who did. And Vietnam veterans are discussed. The point was made by a member of Congress that what's going on now is the tip of the iceberg and he's not sure how many people get that. The problems taking place right now are going to be amplified. You've got people who signed contracts when the war started or after and what you're seeing right now is only the first waves. So the system really needs to be fixed before it falls completely apart under the strain. (And as C.I. and Elaine always point out, anything that's not dealt with before the illegal war ends won't get dealt with easily. Right now, due to the ongoing war, there's a chance that will pass when the war ends and the struggle that Saunders or any of them can tell you about to make changes will be harder because a number of Americans will take the attitude of "The war's over. I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to think about it.")

So that's one of the Congressional hearings that I didn't read about or see on TV. I'm very happy to be able to note it in some form. I think it's great that C.I. is covering at least two hearings when Congress is in session (and addressing Iraq). It's really opened my eyes to how very little our media covers Congress. C.I. covered (in the snapshots) three days of hearings this week (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday's snapshots) and that was a pain in the butt I'm sure. Those were all day hearings. And reading the snapshots, I was just amazed at how much happened that didn't get covered when the media had focused on Tuesday and Wednesday's hearings. Thursday they seemed less interested in. And considering that outlets such as The Progressive are happy to 'live blog' b.s., it's really shameful that they can't live blog even one hearing. Then there was Spencer Ackerman who seemed to think he was doing the world a favor. He naturally missed Hillary's statements on Tuesday (and tried to play it off on CSpan going out). But where was he on Thursday? Thursday's hearings were part of the big push. I really think, big or small, our media is failing us and I will allow that for some outlets (big ones), they've reduced their staff and have less reporters. When I was growing up and a young adult, it might have been boring to read, but Congressional hearings were covered in the newspapers. And The Nation used to have a Congressional reporter. Where is that today? They can offer their dumb blog posts full of Hillary Hatred but do they really contribute anything? (The Nation should feel free to insult my site. But they should remember that I'm not a professional writer and I'm not paid to do this site. Nor am I journalist, trained or otherwise.)

We were talking about the homeless veterans hearing last week because C.I. had noted it in the snapshot. And I asked the time and C.I. pulled out the datebook and groaned. "They're not going to get any attention." Why? Because of the other scheduled hearings. So I'm very thankful C.I. passed the notes over. (Though I feel bad because I'm sure it was probably planned to go into Monday's snapshot since there wasn't time today. Now there's a hole that C.I. will have to fill on Monday instead of starting the week ready for Monday's snapshot.) I don't know how 'valuable' my post is but at least I talked about something important and I really did not see a thing on this hearing on TV or in the paper. There are so many hearings like that and, if you think about it, that's what happened with Winter Soldier as well. It got so very little attention and proved how very little Panhandle Media actually cares about ending the illegal war. I mentioned The Progressive earlier, so let me point out what's already been pointed out. They did nothing on Winter Soldier. They didn't even give a heads up when the investigation started to tell people "You can stream this live online." But the next week, the Amway Convention of the faux left took place (Take Back America!) and that they could live blog. Which was more important? An ongoing, illegal war being addressed in Winter Soldier or a bunch of rejects plotting to take over the Democratic Party?

I could gripe all night but I need to get to bed.

This is Howard Wolfson's "HUBdate: Safe and Secure Communities" ( for Friday:

Previewing Today: Hillary delivers a "Solutions for Safe and Secure Communities Now" speech in West Philadelphia with Mayor Michael Nutter and outlines her $4 billion a year crime-fighting plan…the plan cuts murders in half, and "put[s] 100,000 more cops on the streets, create[s] a $1 billion grant program to fight recidivism, and provide[s] more funds to combat gangs and drugs." Read more and more.
Recapping Yesterday: Hillary responded to President Bush’s address on Iraq: "The President refuses to face the reality that we are confronted with in Iraq"..."Mrs. Clinton also dismissed Mr. McCain's housing market proposals as 'warmed-over' and 'half-hearted' versions of her own plans."
Read more.
Basking in Support: At last night's Allegheny County Democratic Dinner, Hillary "bask[ed] in support"... and "invoking her mother, her daughter and the other women in her family, Pittsburgh's first female mayor [Sophie Masloff] endorsed a candidate battling to be the first woman to preside in the Oval Office."
Read more.
Three In 36 Hours: Hillary received the support of three new automatic delegates over the past 36 hours...the campaign also announced that Hillary has now received the endorsement of over 270 elected officials in Pennsylvania.
Read more and more.
Renewing the American Dream: Yesterday, Hillary attended the Beaver County Democratic Dinner in Hopewell Township, where "she promised a boisterous Democratic audience that she'd renew the American dream and repeatedly said she could fix mistakes made by President Bush on the economy and the war in Iraq."
Read more.
On Tap in Indiana: Hillary will host "Solutions for the American Economy" events in Indianapolis, Mishawaka, and Valparaiso on Saturday. Sen. Bayh previewed the trip on a call with reporters.
Read more.
Standing Strong: Other elected officials, including Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) are joining Hillary in her calls for President Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics because of the recent human rights violations committed by the Chinese government against Tibetan protestors.
Read more.
In Case You Missed It: Sen. Obama has lost the 10-point lead nationally over Sen. John McCain he had a month ago, while Hillary leads McCain 48% to 45% in the same poll.
View here.

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

Friday, April 11, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, The Petraeus & Crocker Variety Hour week concludes, Najaf under curfer, and more.

Starting with war resistance. "As the Vietnam War fades into the past, the struggle for reinterpretation continues. One area that has received insufficient attention is war resistance. The script offered in public circles often reads like this: the war has ended for resisters; isolated numbers of people resisted military service, most of them 'draft dodgers'; all of the legal issues surrounding military resisters were resolved -- they eventually 'got off' and people only refuse military service when they face a draft. These myths, like most others about the war, are designed to influence future generations of potential warriors,"
reminds Harold Jordan (AFSC) in an essay reviewing the realities now fogged and ignored. Reality does make a difference and reality has been torn apart by those who continue to falsely insist that war resisters who went to Canada during Vietnam were just those avoiding the draft. Some had already been inducted into the service, some had deployed to Vietnam. There was never a procedure in Canada, during this period, where you had to state, "I left the service but I was drafted in!" It did not matter. In fact, it was assumed those going to Canada after serving in Vietnam were not only taking a courageous stand but were also bearing witness. Those who repeat the lies that it was just draft evaders have made the current climate in Canada more difficult as everyone latches on to the pot-hazed memories (of people who did not resist) as proof that the Vietnam era war resisters were only granted safe haven because there was a draft. The draft was not the issue, the illegal war was. As it is today.

James Burmeister is a class of 2007 war resister -- tranlation, Panhandle Media ignored him. While serving in Iraq, he saw the Bait and Kill teams -- US materials being planted (not just weapons, as the MSM reported when they picked up on the story in the fall of 2007) so that Iraqis could be shot when they touched US property. Burmeister returned to the US last winter, turned himself in at Fort Knox waiting to hear what happens next.
Courage to Resist posts an interview (audio) with him and his father Erich Burmeister. Asked whether or not Canada had placed "pressure on you to leave," James Burmeister explained, " Of course. You know, they kind of drag out the decision on whether or not they will let us stay. They make it hard for us to get jobs or financial assistance. We're kind of in the middle up here and that's how they pressure us, they don't really give us the status. They make it hard to live up here." Erich Burmeister spoke of the help Ann Wright and Anita Anderson Dennis (Darrell Anderson's mother) have provided. He also noted the kill teams.

Erich Burmeister: It was more what he was involved in there. Particularly what really bothered him was the bait and kill thing which now is a pretty infamous subject which has come up in some of the trials of some of the soldiers that have been put on trial for murder. This sniper, you know, putting out pieces of equipment and waiting for someone to touch it and they shoot him. And that really, really bothered him. Plus the fact that when they would go through these neighborhoods and, you know, kick in people's doors and raid their houses and just loot their houses, and the terror that he saw on people's faces. He told me these things had really bothered him. And the devestation he saw around him. It was -- it was really hard for him to deal with that. He told me times that he would see people digging through garbage, women digging through garbage, and he couldn't believe the conditions that the Iraqis were forced to live under and he felt like he was somewhat responsible for this.

While Burmeister waits to find out what the military will do, war resisters in Canada wait to find out whether they will be granted safe harbor. 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, 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, 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).

The week's biggest story is the death of 19 soldiers this week. Should have been but few seem aware of it (and, in fact, one news program yesterday evening said there were 16 deaths for the month so far, no, there have been 20 for the month thus far). ICCC has had problems (hacking their server) and possibly that's left some outlets confused. But yesterday's deaths resulted in 19. There are 20 for the month. The only death prior to this week was Travis L. Griffin who died in Baghdad from hostile fire on April 3rd. Clicking here will show you the 20 and the days they died. Starting Sunday (April 6th -- when 8 died), there have been 19 deaths. The deaths, little noticed and incorrectly counted when noted, came as The Petraeus & Crocker Variety Hour got some attention. But what would the reaction have been to the dog and pony show this week had most Americans read on the front page of their newspapers or heard at the start of their news broadcasts that 19 US service members were killed in Iraq this week thus far? Due to the media snoozing on the job, we can only guess.

On today's second hour of NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show, Rehm spoke with Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers), Demetri Sevastopulo (Finacial Times of London) and Michael Hirsh (Newsweek) about the week's events in the US and Iraq.

Diane Rehm: And this week, Moqtada al-Sadr threatened to call of the cease-fire. What is weighing, Nancy? And what does it mean for the security situation in Iraq?

Nancy A. Youssef: Well it's critical to the current, current political situation, because even the US conceeds that that cease-fire has been a key reason behind the recent drop in violence. This week Nouri al-Maliki threatened that anyone with any sort of militia behind them would not be able to participate in the elections and I think that's one reason Sadr is considering his actions this week. If he lifts it, it would substantially change the security situation and I think it would also raise questions about the directions he's headed in. When he declared the cease-fire, many interpreted Sadr as trying to rebrand himself as a Shia nationalist. He spent a lot of time in Iran building up his religious credentials if you will and if he lifts the cease-fire, I think that will put all of that into question. It would also say that he's pretty confident that he can control those forces which I think many people question right now whether he can.

Diane Rehm: The other question that arises, Demetri, is to what extent did the diminishment in violence that occurred in Iraq come about because of the surge or because Moqtada al-Sadr declared a cease-fire?

Demetri Sevastopulo: Well I think depending on when you asked the US military and the commanders this question, the answer had been different. For example, when President Bush went to Al Anbar Province last fall, as we were traveling out there, some officials said that the decline in violence there, the so-called Sunni "Awakening" where the shieks who had previously been fighting the Americans, allied themselves with Americans to take on al Qaeda. And we were told that that was in some ways serendipity and that surge was now going to have to build on that. Other officials said no, it wasn't serendipity, the surge created the situation or the platform for that to happen. I think it's very difficult to say. What you see at the moment is that the cease-fire is in danger of unraveling. Formally it's still in place. But the violence in Basra, the violence in Basra that has also spread to Baghdad is showing that it's very volatile. So I think, really, it's too early to tell and we're just going to have to wait and see. And General Petraeus yesterday warned that he was concerned the cease-fire could break.

Diane Rehm: So how did that upsurge in violence effect General Petraeus' comments, Ambassador Ryan Crocker's outlook?

Demetri Sevastopulo: It's been a difficult one for them to address because when it started in Basra, when Nouri al-Maliki launched his offensive, President Bush said this was a defining moment -- the Iraqi Prime Minister was showing the Iraqi people that the Iraqi troops were standing up on their own two feet, they were fighting for their country. On the other hand, Genereal Petraeus, he welcomed that, but he also pointed out that the operation was poorly planned that Mr. Maliki did not take his military advice and I've been told by some of my sources that Mr. Maliki also rejected offers of support from British forces who've been in Basra albiet pulled back at the airport.

[. . .]

Diane Rehm: Here's an e-mail from Josh in Athens, Ohio, Nancy, he says "What happened to the benchmarks that President Bush shared last year? Has anyone forgotten what he said about marked progress? How will we end this war?" Nancy?

Nancy A. Youssef: You know, it's funny, the benchmark question came up during testimony on Capitol Hill this week from some legislators asking that very thing. The administration says that the Iraqis have met three of the eighteen benchmarks. But Ryan Crocker, the Ambassador, was quick to point out that if the Iraqis meet the benchmarks that doesn't necessarily mean that the security situation will improve or that it will lead to political reconciliation -- which was very interesting. And he, essentially, in saying that, really questioned what the benchmarks were for? Was it for the Iraqis? Or was it for the US to say here's tangiable proof that the Iraqi government is working on something?

Diane Rehm: So how much of what we're seeing in this upsurge is political and how much of it is military, Michael?

Michael Hirsh: You mean in terms of the politics here?

Diane Rehm: Yes, exactly. Politics here and the politics there as well.

Michael Hirsh: I think it's equal parts both. Clearly Petreaus is very serious about pursuing the surge and believes that Iraq would fail, come apart, if US troops were not there in current strength. But at the same time Bush came out yesterday, essentially embraced Petraeus' recommendations, said there had been a strategic shift in Iraq and that we now had the initiative -- is how he put it -- and that's obviously a political message for the fall campaign for those who might be or might not be voting for McCain. John McCain's candidacy, and the Republican ascendancy, and, I think, Bush's legacy as he sees it is very much wrapped up in McCain being seen and Iraq being seen in a positive light as McCain goes into November.

Petreaus spoke with Katie Couric (CBS Evening News -- link has audio and text) for Thursday's broadcast and among the questions Couric put to him, "In our latest poll, 54 percent of Americans think the war is going badly. More than half obviously. How can you sustain this effort without more popular support here at home?" He replied with a denial statement insisting there was progress while acknowledging that "you have to leave that to the American people, who have to be the judge ultimately, who have to weigh all the different consequences along with of course our leaders." At the end of that segment, Couric notes, "General Petraeus also revealed for the first time that he's been engaged in secret diplomatic efforts. In recent months, he's quietly visited several Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan, Kuwait and Turkey, hoping to convince those governments to stop the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq." And of course Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador to Iraq, plan to visit Saudi Arabia to discuss Iraq. Which leads one to wonder exactly what is the US Secretary of State doing? As US Senator Chuck Hagel noted Tuesday during the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting Condi Rice doesn't appear to be doing anything "Kissinger-esque". The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday hearing was reported on by Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times), "Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph Biden Jr. (D-Del) noted that at least two of the presidential candidates disagreed with President Bush on overall Iraq policy. He warned David Satterfield, the State Department's top Iraq advisor, that 'if the president persists in this course, the Congress will insist on a role in approving or disapproving' the agreements. 'This is folly!' Biden said." The agreements sought by the White House are the Status of Forces Agreement and what's seen as a strategic framework agreement.

Bully Boy's bad speech yesterday dominated the bulk of the press. It was nothing new. As
US Senator Joe Biden noted of it, "The President confirmed what I've been saying for some time -- he has no plan to end this war. His plan is to muddle through and then to hand the problem off to his successor. So the result of the surge is that we're right back where we started before it began 15 months ago: with 140,000 troops in Iraq, spending $3 billion every week, losing 30 to 40 American lives every month -- and still no end in sight." After week long wave of Operation Happy Talk from the administration and its surrogates, what really happened? Peter Schmitz (Der Spiegel) observes, "Bush, in short, is changing nothing -- unless one counts the reduction in a tour of duty from 15 months to 12 months." And that change doesn't kick in until August 1st of this year. Anyone sent over prior to that date will be sent over on a 15 month term. Ann McFeatters (Scripps Howard News Service) pointed to the happiness of some, "[US Senator John] McCain exulted that progress has been made, even though Petraeus stressed it is 'fragile' and reversible.' . . . [McCain] and his buddy, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are among few optimists left in Washington." While those two got happy in the Land of Denial, Frank James (Baltimore Sun) notes John McCain's former National Security Assistant Anthony Cordsman declared this week, "The Congress, our military, and the American people deserve more than inarticulate Presidential bluster that seems to thinly camoflage a leadership vacuum."

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad rocket attack on the Palestine Hotel that claimed 3 lives and left seven wounded, a rocket attack on the Green Zone, 2 Baghdad roadside bombings that resulted in 4 deaths and three people being injured, a Baghdad mortar attack that claimed 2 lives and left five people wounded, a Ramadi car bombing claimed the lives of 4 members of the "Awakening" Council members and left three people wounded, a Salahuddin Province car bombing that claimed the life of 1 "Awakening" Council member, 2 Diyala Province roadside bombings that claimed the lives of 1 child and 2 Iraqi soldiers and left six family members of the child injured. Reuters notes a Mosul mortar attack that left eleven people injured.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Najaf assassination of Seyid Riyadh al-Noori ("brother in law to Seyid Muqtada al-Sadr") "as he was returning from Friday prayers." CBS and AP note that Najaf is now under curfew. Reuters notes a police officer was shot dead outside Baiji and "three of his children" were wounded in the attack while, elsewhere in Mosul, 1 more person was shot dead.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 1 corpse (police officer) in Kirkuk.

Turning to US presidential politics. "I believe that impeachment was taken off the table because it's far easier to distance one's self from the American people than it is to distance one's self from the corridors of power,"
Cynthia McKinney declares to Cindy Piester (video only). McKinney is running for the presidential nomination from the Green Party. In a wide ranging interview, Piester takes you through McKinney's long years of public service, in Georgia's state legisture, in the US Congress and the social justice issues that matter to her campaign. Kevin Zeese (Dissident Voice) writes of McKinney, "McKinney served 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives where she urged an end to the Iraq occupation, advocated for impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, sought release of 9/11 Commission's underlying data, advocated on behalf of Katrina victims and sought to cut the bloated military budget. Twice she was defeated in the primary by a Democratic Party leadership approved candidate who worked with Republican cross-over voters for her defeat. She registered Green in September and became a candidate in a 'Power to the People' campaign in October. She is the putative nominee of the Green Party and will be on the ballot in almost all states." Stephanie M. Lee (The Daily Californian) reports on Wednesday's political forum at UC Berkeley and notes: "Larry Shoup, a local activist backing Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, said preserving minority viewpoints is crucial in a democracy. 'Once (Clinton or Obama) are elected, in our view they're going to move to the center,' Shoup said. 'The only way we can keep them honest and moving toward good positions is if we have an independent movement." How might Obama respond to that? "And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations"? Susan UnPC (No Quarter) notes that statement of Obama's that's raising eyebrows. Hillary Clinton's response is: "I saw in the media it's being reported that my opponent said that the people of Pennsylvania who faced hard times are bitter. Well, that's not my experience. As I travel around Pennsylvania, I meet people who are resilient, who are optimistic, who are positive, who are rolling up their sleeves. They are working hard everyday for a better future, for themselves and their children. Pennsylvanians don't need a president who looks down on them, they need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families."

Judi Panasik (The Weekly Reader) points out, "Obama, like the last two Bush campaigns, is playing off of the fears and concerns of voters with no real merit behind what he is saying. . . . And correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't it Bush that convinced us the country was divided and that he would be the one to bring us all together?" From Obama to a candidate who actually stands for something . . . Ralph Nader is running for president. He has selected Matt Gonzalez as his running mate. Angelica Dongallo (The Daily Californian) reports that Gonzalez spoke about Obama's voting record:

"I'm picking on Senator Obama ... because your professor told me this is a pretty strong Obama crowd," Gonzalez said. "It says something about a candidate that can stand in front of you and repeatedly say, 'I can change the culture of Washington, (D.C.)' ... without giving you an accounting of what is going on here. What are these votes about?"

Earlier this week, Foon Rhee was 'covering' (not covering) Senator Hillary Clinton's proposals for breast cancer research. Rhee (Boston Globe) is back to gloat that Nader's campaign "is off to a slow start filling its campaign coffers" having pulled in $321,700 through February. Though not the millions the 2008 Democratic and GOP races that began in 2007 has gotten many to accustomed to, that's an impressive amount for a third party candidate. Rhee seems unaware when Nader declared he was running for president -- February 23rd. Again, that is an impressive amount to have pulled in. Ralph Nader writes: "

April 15 is around the corner.
Could the corporate executives of this country please stand up and show a little appreciation?
To the taxpayers who subsidize them? And bail them out?
How about the $30 billion bailout of reckless Bear Stearns as the most recent and egregious example?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that April 15th of each year be designated Taxpayer Appreciation Day, a day when corporations receiving taxpayer subsidies, bailouts, handouts and other forms of corporate welfare can express their thanks to the citizens who provide them.

US Senator Hillary Clinton is running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Nichola Gutgold (WMC) compares and contrasts the way Clinton and Obama are speaking to voters in Pennsylvania and determines Hillary's is more effective and cites this example of Hillary connecting with voters:

I met with a group of truck drivers in Harrisburg yesterday. They are pretty fed up with high fuel prices and they were making their opinions known. Who is listening? I'm listening, but it doesn't seem like the White House is listening. The president is too busy holding hands with the Saudis to care about American truck drivers who can't afford to fill up their tank any longer. I meet workers all over Pennsylvania and elsewhere who lost their pensions; they have seen companies go into bankruptcy and discharge their obligations. We have a vice president, who, when he was CEO of Halliburton--which now gets all these no bid contracts, don't they, from the government?--workers lost $25 billion in pensions. But Dick Cheney got to strap on a golden parachute worth $20 million. You get tax breaks to people who don't need them while our children get stuck with the bill.

Also at WMC,
Peggy Simpson interviews pioneer and political scientist Jo Freeman about the 2008 race. One point not made in the must-read-article is that, should Clinton win the nomination, November would find two women on the ballot for president -- Clinton and McKinney. Meanwhile Delilah Boyd (A Scriverner's Lament) weighs in on the insulting way Obama's been speaking to women lately. Nancy Reyes (Blogger News Network) notes a poll by Lifetime TV. The poll had an interesting finding that some reports are mentioning but no one is highlighting. This finding directly contradicts everything the MSM has repeatedly told news consumers. From Ellen Wulfhorst (Reuters):

As to Obama, 23 percent said they liked him more now than in January, citing his personal characteristics, while 22 percent said they liked him less. Of those, the most common reason was the Illinois senator's controversial relationship with the outspoken Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

That would be the 'non-issue' Wright who damned the United States from the front of his church in the midst of a sermon. One who did get it was Stuart Taylor Jr. and
click here for his piece Monday for National Journal (that was noted in Tuesday's snapshot but the link didn't make it into the snapshot).

Tonight (in most markets)
NOW on PBS explores poverty. Bill Moyers Journal (also PBS and also tonight in most markets) looks at hunger in America. On the issue of economic realities David Bacon examines day laborers as he continues to report on immigrants and, in September, his latest book is released on this topic: Illegal Workers -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). You can also see his work here at Political Affairs magazine. Sunday on WBAI (11:00 a.m. EST), The Next Hour is hosted by Andrew Andrew and, on Monday, Cat Radio Cafe (2:00 p.m. EST):Adam Mansbach talks about his new novel, "The End of the Jews"; Stephen Frailey, head of the Department of Photography at the School of Visual Arts discusses "The 2008 Mentors Exhibition"; and painter Simon Dinnerstein discusses his collaboration with his daughter, virtuoso pianist Simone Dinnerstein and radio star Robin Quivers on "A Night of Music & Art with the Dinnersteins," a fundraiser for Healing Bridges, an organization creating jobs for women in Africa.

mcclatchy newspapers