Thursday, February 28, 2013

Food and the economy

I was going to highlight Kat's BFF Kevin Zeese but saw he was co-writing with the idiot.  I don't have time for idiots.  Life is too short. 

And the economy's too pathetic.  Boeing's going to cut "hundreds" of jobs in South Carolina.

Where are the jobs?

That should be the cry that greets Barack whenever he goes out in public: Where are the jobs!
Subway -- the sandwich chain -- gets how bad things are, they're unveiling a 3-dollar six-inch sandwich.  In the  90s, I'd get a vegetarian Subway and a Coke every 'limo trip' to eat on the way to whatever child's activity I was chauferring -- sports, music, debate, play, what have you.  And I would get that for four bucks and tax.  A footlong vegetarian.  You can't get just the sandwich for that today. 

Olivia Gilbertsen (Vidette Online) reports disturbing news:

Looking at data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Americans are getting 11.3 percent of their calories via fast food.
The 11.3 percent, which was gathered between 2007 and 2010, is an improvement when compared to previous data collected by the CDC. The number from 2003-2006 was 12.8 percent, not a major difference but a decrease nonetheless.

I've been as guilty as anyone because when you've got kids and a job, you don't always have time to run them to the football game or whatever and still have a sit-down dinner. 

That's why I wish we had healthier choices at fast food places.  Like a grilled fish sandwich at Wendy's.  Or some salads without meat (other than the tiny side salad).  I don't know why Wendy's can't make a regular salad that's free of meat.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, February 28, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Bradley Manning speaks, he decries the US counter-insurgency in Iraq, he notes he tried to speak with two newspapers before he utilized WikiLeaks, Nouri and his State of Law insult the protesters, the UN meets with protesters, and more.

Medina Roshan, Barbara Goldberg, Paul Simao and Tim Dobbyn (Reuters) report, "The U.S. Army private accused of providing secret documents to the WikiLeaks website pleaded guilty on Thursday to misusing classified material he felt 'should become public,' but denied the top charge of aiding the enemy."  He has now been held by the US government for 1005 days.  Janet Reitman (Rolling Stone) explains, "It was only the second time Manning had spoken in court (the first, in November 2012, I detail extensively in my article) and the first time he was allowed to explain his motives. Dressed in his Navy blue Army dress uniform, Manning, in a clear, strong voice, read out a 35-page-long statement in which he described himself as a conscience-stricken young man who, appalled by what he saw as illegal acts on the part of the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, refused to play along."

This all goes back to  Monday April 5, 2010, when WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor."

Free Speech Radio News' Dorian Merina spoke with journalist Kevin Gosztola about today's events:

Dorian Merina:  So what exactly did Bradley Manning plead guilty to today?

Kevin Gosztola: He was pleading to elements of the original charges.  It's easier to say what he didn't plead guilty to committing.  He didn't plead guilty to aiding the enemy, to violating the espionage act, to violating The Computer Fraud and Abuse act, or to committing violations of a federal larceny statute.  So he didn't say that he was stealing or that he'd committed a theft when he [had] the information and it became information he had in his position.  So, uh, what that leads is pleading to the possession of the information, pleading to giving it to an unauthorized person -- someone who wasn't authorized to receive the information and then engaging in conduct that would be service discrediting the military.

Brendan Trembath (Australia's ABC -- link is video and text) picks up there.

Brendan Trembath: He pleaded guilty to ten of the lesser charges of misusing confidential information.  That information included diplomatic cables, it included combat videos -- all sorts of material that the United States wanted to keep private.  He has admitted to these lesser charges but what he hasn't admitted to is the most serious charge of aiding the enemy.  That charge carries a life sentence.

Different reporters emphasize different things.  Speaking to The World's Marco Werman (PRI) today, Arun Rath brought up some important points others left out.

Arun Rath:  It was actually a 35-page written statement that he had worked on.  It took him over and hour to read and, honestly, it's going to be a while that we'll be digesting all of this.  But mainly he talked about the reasons why he did what he did.  He admitted to leaking information to WikiLeaks.  He talked about his time in Iraq and how he grew more and more disturbed over time with what he saw in Iraq, what he considered to be abuses.  He said the US became obsessed with killing and capturing people rather than cooperating. He complained to his superiors and he said that they did nothing.  And most interestingly he said that he actually took some of this information both to the Washington Post and the New York Times  and was essentially ignored.  That's why he went to WikiLeaks.

For England's Channel 4 News, Matt Frei reports (link is video):

Matt Frei: He also told us that he had tried to contact the New York Times and the Washington Post and Politico here in Washington first before going to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.  Now he left a recorded message on the answering machine of the New York Times ombudsman [public editor -- they don't have an ombudsperson at the Times and resisted that title when they created the position], their kind of editorial watchdog.  He talked to a junior reporter at the Washington Post  who didn't return his call and he never got to see Politico because the weather was too bad.  Had he done any of those three, just imagine how different history would be because they would have presumably leaked some of those documents but they would have filtered them first, they would have protected their source Bradley Manning and this would have indeed become a debate about America's foreign policy and military policy which is what Bradley Manning said he always wanted.

A few things on Frei's remarks.  There is no ombudsperson at the New York Times.  When the post of public editor was created, the ombudsperson title was rejected.  In addition, it's not just a title that a paper can bestow.  To be an ombudsperson, you're supposed to belong to The Organization of News Ombudsmen. Second, if "he talked to a junior reporter at the Washington Post who didn't return his call" then he did not talk to a reporter, he left a message for a reporter.  Third of all, Julian Assange can be faulted for some things to do with WikiLeaks.  He cannot be faulted with regards to protecting Bradley Manning.  Check his statements from the start.  He has stated he did not know who the source was.  Julian Assange did not give up Bradley Manning.  Adrian Llamo snitched and got a little pay day from the government for doing so.  Presumably, had Bradley gone to the other outlets, he still would have found himself needing to talk by chat room and still mistaken con artist Adrian Llamo for someone who could be trusted.

Andrew Beaujon (Poynter) notes that the New York Times' spokesperson Eileen Murphy as has the then-public editor Clark Hoyt.  I can't speak to the public editor issue but on his attempt to contact anyone else at the Times?  Eileen Murphy has not had time -- nor has the paper -- to have certainty behind the claim that no one knows anything of such contact at the paper.  During the early days of the Go Go Green Zone, a New York Times reporter was contacted by an enlisted American soldier with a serious story that the Go-Go Boy in the Green Zone deemed too hot.  I know of that because the soldier then contacted this site.  I wrote about that here shortly after the scandal broke.  He wrote this site and I teamed him with a reporter I knew who was more than happy to have the story.  When I go after someone here, it's usually for several reasons and that 'reporter' then with the Times is someone we will never stop ridiculing for many, many reasons including his running from a 100% real journalism scoop because he didn't want to upset his friends in the US military brass.  So if Bradley says he contacted any reporter at the paper, I believe him because of what happened before when a reporter was presented with a story, with supporting evidence and not just verbal hearsay, and the NYT scribe said that it was "too hot to handle" and would get him in trouble with certain US military officers so he was passing on the article.  For anyone who says I wasn't present for that conversation, I wasn't.  The soldier who contacted this site supplied the e-mails back and for to the NYT reporter.  Again, I can't speak to the public editor, but if Bradley tried to contact a reporter at the paper, I can easily see him being blown off.  Actually, I can speak to the public editor.  I knew Daniel Okrent had an assistant but I really haven't followed any of the public editor's since.  (Daniel Okrent was the paper's first public editor and any mea culpa from the paper on their Iraq 'reporting' resulted from the work Okrent did in his public editor columns.)  I just got off the phone with a friend who's an editor at the New York Times.  Hoyt's public remarks are he doesn't remember speaking to Bradley.  Hoyt has not stated his assistant didn't.  I was told over the phone (over the other phone, I'm dictating the snapshot in one cell phone) that Hoyt's assistant was Mike McElroy.  McElroy could have spoken to Bradley or heard a message Bradley left.

Politico?  Bad weather is probably the best excuse for that rag.  As for the Washington Post.  There were many stories today.  What did the paper focus on?  Something important and news worthy?  No, they let their bloggers play with their own feces publicly at the website.  Until mid-day when finally the adults stepped in and told the 'reporters' to stop filing pieces attacking Bob Woodward. (Late to the party on Woodward?  Click here and click here for Marcia.)   If you were one of those monkey bloggers, let me tell you right now, it's not over and you should be on your best behavior because your work is now being seriously monitored by adults way up above you in the chain of command -- as it should be.  So clearly, a "junior reporter" at the Post doesn't necessarily know news the way a Dana Priest, an Ann Scott Tyson, an Ernesto Londono or, yes, a Bob Woodward would know news. Erik Wemple made clear that he does not know news.  First with his bitchy attack on Bob Woodward earlier today and then with his 'report' late this afternoon which we'll link to because it's so damn awful and so damn stupid.  First off, he worked the phones . . . to call the Times.  Golly, Erik, I just made one call to the Times, to a friend and I got Mike McElroy's name, the fact that Mike could have spoken to Bradley or heard the message.  These are details that you, a supposed professional journalist missed.  You also 'forgot' to speak to anyone at your paper to see about Bradley's call to the Post.  Then again, I understand a lot of people at the Washington Post don't want to speak to you -- and I understand why they don't -- I really, really understand why they don't.  Keep writing crap like the 'report' we're linking to and, Erik, you'll be gone from the paper before the year's up.  With regards to your earlier attack on Bob Woodward, tell me, Erik, what I just put in bold, was it a threat? 

[Oh, look, Erik, Julie Tate and Ernesto Londono manage to do the job you failed at, "Staying with an aunt in the Washington area as a blizzard blanketed the region, Manning said he called The Post, seeking a journalist willing to examine documents detailing security incidents in Iraq. He said he spoke to a female reporter who didn’t seem to take him seriously."]

It appears only one US outlet is emphasizing a very important and news worthy aspect.  Ben Nuckols (AP) quotes Bradley telling the military court:

I felt we were risking so much for people who seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and hatred on both sides. I began to become depressed at the situation we found ourselves mired in year after year. In attempting counterinsurgency operations, we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists.  I wanted the public to know that not everyone living in Iraq were targets to be neutralized.
It's amazing how only AP has that aspect of the story among US outlets -- Ed Pilkington reports the remarks for England's Guardian newspaper.  It's probably the most important part.  The weakest report from a name outlet was going to be compared and contrasted but a friend with ABC News just told me that the editor of that paper wrote a thoughtful piece on the attacks on Bob Woodward.  As a result, a really bad reporter gets a pass from me today.  David Martin (CBS Evening News -- link is text and video) notes, "Depressed and frustrated by the wars, he used his job as a low-ranking intelligence analyst in Baghdad to download onto a CD hundreds of thousands of classified documents -- pus a few videos, like this  helicopter gunship attack that killed two journalists in Iraq -- which he found 'troubling' because it showed 'delightful bloodlust'."  CNN's Larry Shaughnessy and Mark Morgenstein (CNN) report:

After Manning's guilty pleas, Army judge Col. Denise Lind asked the defendant questions to establish that he understood what he was pleading guilty to.

In addition, she reminded him that his lawyer had filed a motion to have the case dismissed on the grounds that he was denied his right to a speedy trial -- a motion that Lind denied Tuesday. By entering guilty pleas, Manning loses his right to have an appellate court consider that ruling, if he chooses to appeal.

So today, a little more about Bradley Manning is known.  As Janet Reitman (Rolling Stone) observes:

For the past two and a half years, Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of giving hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, has been the quiet enigma at heart of the largest and most contentious intelligence leak case in American history. As I write in "The Trials of Bradley Manning," my story for the latest issue of Rolling Stone, this silence – imposed by a lengthy pretrial detention that included nearly a year spent in "administrative segregation," the military equivalent of solitary confinement – made it possible for a legion of interested parties on both sides of the political spectrum to graft their own identities and motivations onto Bradley Manning. They have portrayed him variously as a hero, a traitor, an emotionally-troubled misfit and a victim of prison abuse.


And maybe, if people pay attention, a little more is know about US policy.  Counter-insurgency.  Again, Bradley's remarks:

I felt we were risking so much for people who seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and hatred on both sides. I began to become depressed at the situation we found ourselves mired in year after year. In attempting counterinsurgency operations, we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists.  I wanted the public to know that not everyone living in Iraq were targets to be neutralized.

Counter-insurgency is war on a native people.  It's an attempt to trick them, to deceive them, to harm them in order to 'pacify' them.  James Dobbins wrote a ridiculous piece for the Council on Foreign Relations' Foreign Affairs magazine where he lamented counter-insurgency falling out of favor during Vietnam:

The dominant lesson drawn from this costly and ultimately futile war was to avoid similar missions in the future. As a result, counterinsurgency was eliminated from the curriculum of American staff and war colleges. When faced with a violent insurgency in Iraq three decades later, U.S. soldiers had to reacquire the basic skills to fight it. During the several years it took them to do so, the country descended into ever deeper civil war.
As American commanders relearned in Iraq, counterinsurgency demands a more discreet and controlled application of force, a more politically directed strategy, greater knowledge of the society one is operating in, and more interaction with the local civilian population than conventional combat. Perhaps the most essential distinction between the two forms of warfare is that successful counterinsurgency focuses less on killing the insurgents and more on protecting the population from insurgent violence and intimidation.
There is a legitimate debate over how deeply the U.S. military should invest in counterinsurgency capability at the expense of conventional capacity. But no one seriously argues that counterinsurgency tactics are not necessary to resist insurgencies.

That's so inaccurate but do we expect accuracy from Dobbins?  He served under George H.W. Bush which means he knows all about lying.  Counter-insurgency in Vietnam included such 'wonders' as: To save the village, we had to burn the village.  In Vietnam, they were a little more open about what took place and that was kill the ones you think are seen as leaders to get the native population to fall in line.  In addition, it fell out of favor because of all the War Crimes -- all the indiscriminate killing, the rapes, you name it. 

Dobbins claims that counter-insurgency was needed in Iraq.  Then why was it developed before the war?  If commanders 'relearned' the importance of this War Crime technique, then who 'knew' to include it before the war started?

"A more discreet and controlled application of force" is a polite way for saying "targeted killings."  In addition, Iraq and Afghanistan saw new War Criminals.  Anthropologists willing to betray the teachings and ethics of their profession agreed to act as spies and snitches on native populations.  They carried guns and they lied.  They did not identify themselves as anthropologists.  They're supposed to practice informed consent.  That means, if I'm an anthropologist and I'm studying your culture, I tell you what I am and I tell you I have some questions and ask you if you'd like to answer.  You're free not to.  But there are no ethics for War Criminals.  So you had them in military garb, carrying guns, going door to door with the US military, leading native populations to believe these foreigners with guns were military and had to be answered.  If they'd known they didn't have to answer, they might have rightly told these Montgomery McFates and others losers, "F**k off" -- and then slammed the door in their faces.

But the US military knew that as well which is why informed consent wasn't practiced.

They forced their way into the lives of a native population, they acted as spies and informers -- for a foreign force that wanted to dominate the country.  That's not anthropology, that's not social science.  That's a betrayal of everything the social sciences are supposed to stand for.  As Elaine pointed out Tuesday night, "Counter-insurgency needs to be loudly condemned.  I fully support stripping people of professional accreditation if they use their academic training to trick or deceive native populations.  The social sciences are supposed to be scientific and professional.  They are not supposed to be used to harm people."  Serena Golden (Inside Higher Ed) reports on the resignation from the National Academy of Sciences by "eminent University of Chicago anthropologist Marshall Sahli:
Sahlins further noted his objection to several recently announced collaborations between the NAS and the U.S. military. One of the projects involves "measuring human capabilities" and "the combination of individual capabilities to create collective capacity to perform"; another seeks to study "the social and organizational factors that present external influences on the behavior of individuals operating within the context of military environments." Both have the stated goal of utilizing social science research "to inform U.S. military personnel policies and practices."
Because of "the toll that military has taken on the blood, treasure, and happiness of American people, and the suffering it has imposed on other peoples," Sahlins said, "the NAS, if it involves itself at all in related research, should be studying how to promote peace, not how to make war."
Sahlins' resignation highlights two serious and ongoing debates within anthropology: one, the appropriate relationship -- if any -- between anthropologists and the military (Sahlins has previously expressed his opposition to any such involvement); two, the role of hard science within the discipline.
Dobbins says no one seriously argues that counter-insurgency techniques aren't necessary.  It has a Cokie Roberts "none that  matter" ring to it, doesn't it?  It just doesn't have the ring of truth to it.

Anthropologist David H. Price has been a leading voice -- I'd argue the leading voice -- in calling out social scientists helping the military conduct war on a native people.  At CounterPunch, he interviews anthropologist Marshall Sahlins about Sahlins decision to resign from the National Academy of Sciences:

In late 1965 Sahlins traveled to Vietnam to learn firsthand about the war and the Americans fighting it, work that resulted in his seminal essay “The Destruction of Conscience in Vietnam.”   He became one of the clearest and most forceful anthropological voices speaking out against efforts (in the 1960s and 70s, and in again in post-9/11 America) to militarize anthropology.
In 2009 I was part of a conference at the University of Chicago critically examining renewed efforts by U.S. military and intelligence agencies to use anthropological data for counterinsurgency projects.  Sahlins’ paper at the conference argued that, “in Vietnam, the famous anti-insurgency strategy was search and destroy; here it is research and destroy.  One might think it good news that the military’s appropriation of anthropological theory is incoherent, simplistic and outmoded – not to mention tedious – even as its ethnographic protocols for learning the local society and culture amount to unworkable fantasies. ”

Are you getting what Bradley Manning found offensive.  He was sent to Iraq with the same lie everyone else was -- liberation, to help, etc.  And what he found were innocents being tricked and deceived -- innocent Iraqis being targeted:

I began to become depressed at the situation we found ourselves mired in year after year. In attempting counterinsurgency operations, we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists.  I wanted the public to know that not everyone living in Iraq were targets to be neutralized.

The deaths never stopped.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports, "Two car bombs ripped off back to back in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad on Thursday night, killing at least 16 people and wounding 30 others, a local police source said.Al Jazeera reports the death toll has risen to 19 dead (thirty injured).  In other violence today, the National Iraqi News Agency reports two Baghdad bombs left 8 people injured, another eight are injured in a al-Azizia car bombing (Wasit Province) All Iraq News updates the injured toll for Wasit to fourteen.  And Reuters is stating that 3 people are dead.  That's another thing to watch for, seriously injured may pass away. On the Baghdad bombing, Reuters reports that in addition to the eight injured, 1 person was killed. Aslumaria notes 1 Sahwa leader was shot dead in a Kirkuk attack that also killed 1 bodyguard and left another injured.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 316 violent deaths this month in Iraq.

Alsumaria reports that MP Magdy Rady (of Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc) stated that the current government would not survive one week if the Sadrists were to begin demonstrating in all the provinces.  Possibly but the ongoing protests are pretty powerful as is.  Doubt it?  Nouri's State of Law can't stop trashing them.  The National Iraq News Agency reports State of Law MP Kamal al-Saadi told the outlet that the Ba'ath Party is behind the unrest with the help of "regional powers."  State of Law MP Najaf Sadiq tells Alsumaria that "deviants" are the reason for the protests.  The Iraqi people are the protesters.

The deviance is to be found in the government, not in the people.  They want the government to stop allowing women and girls to be tortured and raped in prison, they want basic services that work -- like potable water. Really most of the things they were demanding in 2011 are what they're calling for today.  Layla Anwar (Arab Woman Blues) notes the protesters demands:

- End of Sectarian Shia rule
- the re-writing of the Iraqi constitution (drafted by the Americans and Iranians)
- the end to arbitrary killings and detention, rape and torture of all detainees on basis of sect alone and their release
- the end of discriminatory policies in employment, education, etc based on sect
- the provision of government services to all
- the end of corruption
- no division between Shias and Sunnis, a one Islam for all Iraqi Muslims and a one Iraq for all Iraqis.

Those aren't unreasonable requests.  And the protests have been going on since December with each Friday seeing an increase in the turnout -- last Friday saw over 3 million people take part in the protests -- that's 10% of the country's population.   Iraqi Spring MC notes that Samarra has just seen day 60 of their sit-in.

They protesters had the support of clerics and tribal leaders.  And the United Nations is meeting with the them.  Dar Addustour notes that the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler met with officials and protesters in Kirkuk and that Governor Najmoldeen Omer Kareem told him yesterday that they support the protesters in Kirkuk and Hawija and that they understand the demands the protesters are making.   NINA adds that Kobler states the demands of the Kirkuk protesters include holding local elections.

All Iraq News reports Nouri al-Maliki arrived in Karbala Province today.  The province, in the center of Iraq, has an estimated one million residents and the capital, Karbala, is one of the holy cities in Iraq that pilgrims travel to regularly.  NINA notes that Nouri gave a speech about today's Iraq and declared that there was no place in it "for militias, armed groups and warlords."  Of course not!  It would appear he's recruited all of the thugs to be his military and his police.  That would explain the 11 deaths when Nouri's forces opened fire  on them January 25th in Falluja.

Two US State Dept Tweets.

First is because a Sour Grape Girl felt the need to insult new Secretary of State John Kerry on the radio this week.  Sour Grape Girl just doesn't feel safe, as a woman, with Kerry as Secretary of State.  Sour Grape Girl needs to get a life.  Women are not vanishing because the new Secretary of State has a penis.  Under Hillary Clinton, the State Dept did not ignore men.  Sour Grape Girls really hurt themselves when they open their uninformed mouths but they also hurt the cause and maybe some leaders do need to step away from the microphones after the ages of 70.  (See Kat's argument here and Rebecca's here -- and I'm not referring to Gloria Steinem as the Sour Grape Girl -- it was Robin Morgan.)  John Kerry is in Italy.  Tomorrow he goes to Turkey.

Bulet Aras and Emirhan Yorulmazlar (The Hill) offer their take on the region and note of Iraq:

Ankara-Baghdad relations turned sour after Maliki paradoxically perceived the Turkish position to promote consensual politics not only in Iraq, but also in Syria as threatening. At home he shied away from power sharing, abroad he feared yet another Sunni ascendancy. The resultant equation is the U.S.-encouraged Maliki coalesces with Iran and the Baathist Assad. Turkey sided with the KRG and Sunni minority against an “oppressing” Maliki majority bloc, yet acted reservedly not to alienate other Shiite groups. Iran’s policy has been to aggravate
Shiite-Sunnite tensions in Iraq and the region to hedge against its political losses after the Arab Spring. Meanwhile, Turkey’s burgeoning energy and security needs entailed a rapprochement with the KRG, which was earlier advocated by the Americans but went even further than U.S. projections. Overall, for Ankara, the U.S. siding with Maliki in the name of political stability is a faux pas that requires reparation. This is while the U.S. came out vocal in opposing Turkish-KRG cooperation particularly on energy. Maliki’s ties with Ankara seem irreparable and until US pretension about political stability in Iraq ends both sides will continue to differ on Iraqi affairs.

Cindy Sheehan is a world famous peace activist, an author, the host of Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox and a lot more. She's gearing up for a new action, the Tour de Peace.


Contact: David Swanson  202-329-7847

Sheehan and other riders are available for interviews.

WHAT: Gold Star Mother and "peace mom" Cindy Sheehan will lead a Tour de Peace bike ride across the United States

from the grave of her son Casey in Vacaville, Calif., to Washington, D.C., following the mother road, historic Route 66 to Chicago, and other roads from there on to D.C.  Bicyclers will join in for all or part of the tour, which will include public events organized by local groups along the way.  Complete route:

WHEN: The tour will begin on April 4, 2013, nine years after Casey Sheehan was killed in Iraq, and 45 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed in Memphis.  It will conclude on July 3, 2013, with a ride from Arlington National Cemetery to the White House.

WHY: This August will mark 8 years since Cindy Sheehan began a widely reported protest at then-President George W. Bush's "ranch" in Crawford, Texas, demanding to know what the "noble cause" was for which Bush claimed Americans were dying in Iraq.  Neither Bush nor President Obama has yet offered a justification for a global war now in its 12th year.  The Tour de Peace will carry with it these demands:

To end wars, To end immunity for U.S. war crimes, To end suppression of our civil rights, To end the use of fossil fuels, To end persecution of whistleblowers, To end partisan apathy and inaction.
Watch the trailer:


the world
marco werman

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pay Day Loans?

I think Pay Day Loans are a racket, sorry.  If they have benefitted you, great.  But I know too many who have not benefitted.  As with the MarketPlace story today,  Evelyn Hatchett's story is pretty much the one I hear:

The process seemed simple enough: she’d get $350 and pay back $425 in a couple of weeks. But when she couldn’t repay the loan all at once, she started paying just the finance charges. Then she got a new loan to pay off the old one.
Hatchett estimates she’s borrowed about $2,000 from payday lenders over the years, plus a separate $1,500 she borrowed against her car. By now, she thinks she’s paid back three to four times the original value of her loans.

I realize that can be it for some people, that it's pay day loans or nothing.

But if you've got a little bit of money, I'd suggest you open an account with a credit union.  We use them and not banks because they are just better.

We've got no monthly fees on our joint account.  We can apply for loans and get them much easier through the credit union because we're credit union members.

In addition, our credit union has something like a pay day loan -- without the interest.

Let's say I need $450 dollars and have nothing in my account.  Plus I owe a thirty dollar fee -- as if I'd bounced a check.

I can take up to $500 out of the account -- at a zero balance (so that my account becomes five hundred in the red).  I just have to pay it back on pay day.

And a lot of credit unions have stuff like that.

If you've got a bank and are unhappy, I'd suggest you look into switching to a credit union.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Wednesday:  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Bradley Manning was the leak to WikiLeaks (he tells the court in a filing), Nouri supposedly has arrest warrants ready to go on various politicians (political rivals), Fright Night was last night in Baghdad as Nouri and others freaked out over a sit-in outside the Green Zone, Senator Patty Murray earns a well deserved honor, and more.

Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) reports on a US military court filing in the case of Bradley Manning, specifically that Bradley stated in the defense filing that he passed material to WikiLeaks with the intent to "spark a domestic debate on the role of our military and foreign policy in general."  What are we talking about?

Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor."

So Bradley has admitted in court filings that he passed on papers; however, he has not entered a plea on the major charges. Murphy explains:

Private Manning's guilty pleas, however, are not to the crimes he's been charged with and will not effect the prosecutions ongoing case. They're to lesser offenses, and will have no impact on whether he's convicted on the more serious charges sought by Army prosecutors. So why do it? Manning, who has only been allowed to speak during the pretrial process once before and who has been kept largely isolated from the press, friends, and supporters during his over 1,000 days in detention since his arrest in Iraq on May 28, 2010, wants to expand on the political motives that moved him to commit his acts.

Medina Roshan (Reuters) adds that Bradley "is expected to take the witness stand on Thursday, when he will read aloud from a 35-page statement defending himself in the espionage case."  The Canton Daily Ledger reports on the statement as well:

The statement was written by Manning in person and hand-typed by him. Discussion in court indicated that in it he makes a declaration of the motives that led him to want to pass information to WikiLeaks – making the account a possibly seminal document.
Lind said that she would decide overnight whether to allow Manning to read out the document in court on Thursday. She insisted that the statement had to have the soldier's signature erased so that it would not be a sworn document – following prosecution protests that they would not be able to cross-examine him on the content of his speech.
- See more at:
The statement was written by Manning in person and hand-typed by him.  Discussion in court indicated that in it he makes a declaration of the motives that led him to want to pass information to WikiLeaks -- making the account a possibly seminal document.
Lind said that she would decide overnight whether to allow Manning to read out the document in court on Thursday.  She insisted that the statement had to have the soldier's signature erased so that it would not be a sworn document -- following prosecution protests that they would not be able to cross-examine him on the content of his speech.

The statement was written by Manning in person and hand-typed by him. Discussion in court indicated that in it he makes a declaration of the motives that led him to want to pass information to WikiLeaks – making the account a possibly seminal document.
Lind said that she would decide overnight whether to allow Manning to read out the document in court on Thursday. She insisted that the statement had to have the soldier's signature erased so that it would not be a sworn document – following prosecution protests that they would not be able to cross-examine him on the content of his speech.
- See more at:

Lind is Col Denise Lind who will be presiding over the court-martial.   Ben Nuckols (AP) notes that a small number of (84) of court documents were released today.  Ed Pilkington (Guardian) adds, "The 84 documents released by the army include court rulings on defence and government motions, and orders that set the scheduling of the trial that is currently earmarked to begin on 3 June. But the batch constitutes only a tiny portion of the huge mountain of paperwork that has already been generated in the proceedings, including some 500 documents stretching to 30,000 pages."   Adam Klasfeld (Courthouse News) reports that "a prosecutor asked the court to close the public from about a third of the upcoming" court-martial.  Klasfeld reports Maj Ashden Fein told Lind that "very little" would be kept from the public, elaborating it would be "no more than 30%" to which Lind replied, "The government considered 30% very little?"

So right now, where do things stand for Bradley?  Julie Tate (Washington Post) offers this take, "Manning would face 20 years in prison if he pleads guilty, as anticipated, to unauthorized possession of classified records, videos and documents and willful communication of those to an unauthorized person. After that, Manning would still face 12 other charges in the case, including aiding the enemy and violation of the espionage act."

The National Iraqi News Agency reports that the National Alliance (Shi'ite slate of various political slates and parties) announced today, via MP Haitham al-Jubouri, that "The issue of replacing Maliki is unlikely ever within the Iraqi National Alliance and what is being addressed today about scenarios to extend the demonstrations in all the cities of Iraq to join the demonstrators in Baghdad to pressure on the government to get the prime minister out is impossible."  That doesn't help the protesters feel heard.

Since December, Iraq has seen ongoing protests.  They want a government that's responsive.  In many ways, the protests are an echo of the ones from 2011 -- the ones Nouri derailed by attacking (physically) the protesters and also be swearing that if the people just gave him 100 days, he'd respond to the protesters demands.  He took the 100 days and refused to respond.  The disappeared were always a concern to the protesters. In 2011 and currently, it's been one of the ethical grounds from which the protesters argue for change.  A difference between then and now, however, is that now the Iraqi people have learned that women and girls are being tortured and raped in Iraqi prisons and detention centers.  This is among the reasons that they feel that if change cannot come to Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki needs to go.  And yet today the National Alliance declares that will not happen?  It's statements  like that which fuel the protesters belief that they are not being listened by the government.

No dobut, Nouri's listening, probably with an electronic tap on your cell phone.  This morning,  National Iraq News Agency was reporting:

The MP, of the state law coalition, Sadiq al-Labban revealed that "the government would issue arrest warrants against those who instigated and participated in fueling sectarian strife through exploiting the demonstrations to split the Iraqi National Front, noting that among these names, the Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi. 

This is apparently  another case of Nouri's State of Law political slate being unable to control themselves in public.  In this case, al-Labban has revealed something in existence that Nouri wasn't wanting known just yet.

Rafie al-Issawi is a member of Iraqiya, the political slate that came in first in the March 2010 elections (beating Nouri's State of Law).  He is also Sunni.  Nouri's reputation is one for fighting dirty against political opponents.  If the warrants are real, expect things in Iraq to get a lot worse a lot quicker than many anticipated.  If the talk of warrants if false, al-Labban just made some very uninformed remarks that will have huge repercussions.

NINA quotes Iraqiya MP Wissal Saleem stating:

The statements of the State of Law coalition's MPs about arrest warrants against the leader of the Iraqiya, Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi is dangerous [and]  if they have court orders issued by their courts, this is another subject.  We do not know the basis that the state of law coalition's MP is authorized to talk about an arrest warrant while the judiciary did not say anything about it, indicating that the goal is to create new crises after failing of the Government.   These remarks will lead to a backlash, especially at this critical juncture, through which the Iraqi state is passing.

Distrust, anger and hostility are just some of the feelings State of Law has created with the comments about arrest warrants.  Look for this Friday's protests to be larger than last week's which saw over 3 million people participate -- 10% of the Iraqi population.

Nouri's not responding to the needs of the protesters.  So others are having to step in to try to calm the crisis.   Martin Kobler is the Special Envoy to Iraq of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  National Iraqi News Agency reports that Kobler met today with the Governor of Kirkuk Najimalddin Omar Karim and he went on to meet with representatives of the Kirkuk demonstrators, including those who've been holding a sit-in.

Also making the rounds to discuss the political situation has been US Ambassador to Iraq Robert Beecroft.  Ahlul Bayt News Agency reports he met yesterday with Ammar al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq, and that the two discussed the ongoing political crisis.  All Iraq News quotes from a statement issued by al-Hakim's office which includes, "For his part, the US Ambassador praised Hakim's efforts to resolve the political crisis in Iraq, appreciating his calls for all the politicians to follow dialogue and calmness in coping with the crises."  In addition, Al Mada reports that the US and Iraqi governments -- specifically the US Treasury Dept's Deputy Secretary David Cohen who is meeting with Iraqi officials in Baghdad -- are discussing ways to disrupt the flow of terrorist financing in Iraq.

Meanwhile Alsumaria reports that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc has accused Nouri al-Maliki of not applying justice fairly with regards to the Justice and Accountability law.  Making their statement in a Parliament press conference today, they pointed to Nouri's ally Medhat al-Mahmoud who was Chief Justice of the federal judiciary.  When he was removed from his position because the Accountability and Justice Commission found him to have ties to Ba'athists, Nouri did not abide by the decision and insisted that al-Mahmoud remained a judge and remained off-limits from prosecution.  Falah Shanshal was the head of the Justice and Accountability Commission at that time and Nouri fired him a week after the decision on al-Mahmoud. Moqtada's bloc agrees with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, who reinstated Shanshal on the Justice and Accountability Commission -- that commission, they argue, is overseen by Parliament and Nouri has no control over it.  Despite having no control over it, he has stepped into their dealings the minute he didn't like a decision.  This is why the Sadr bloc accuses him of not applying the law fairly.

Alsumaria reports in the press conference today they also addressed the issue of the budget.  This is the 2013 budget which, yes, should have been passed before 2013 started.  Alsumaria reported yesterday that supporters of cleric and movement leader  Moqtada al-Sadr launched a sit-in outside the Green Zone to get the budget passed.  This followed Monday's announcement that the vote on the 2013 budget was again postponedMohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported of the sit-in, "Demonstrators are demanding movement on the $115 billion budget that was approved by Iraq's Cabinet in October. Parliament still needs to pass the draft legislation, and leaders of key political parties are struggling to reach an agreement."  AFP noted, "It was not immediately clear if the additional security measures, which the ministry official said have caused heavy traffic jams across the city, were aimed at preventing people from joining the protests, or guarding them against attack."  NINA observes, "It is noteworthy that the vote on the budget in the House of Representatives has seen a series of delays because of disagreements among the blocs and lack of approval." Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports the sit-in resulted in increased measures including keeping journalists out of the Parliament building which meant missed out on the 'big' press conference staged by Nouri's State of Law.  A police officer told a reporter who had intended to cover the press conference that he was under orders to shoot anyone -- including a journalist -- who attempted to enter the building.  Kitabat reports that the sit-in lasted through the night and frightened authorities who attempted to pressure Moqtada to ask his followers to end the sit-in.  Citing an unnamed government source, Kitabat states the Green Zone administrators and the Office of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces (Nouri) were scared on "fright night" (their term) and forces in the Green Zone were put on maximum alert. The Iraq Times notes that today Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement decrying the government's (over)reaction to peaceful protesters protesting the fact that Parliament still had not passed the 2013 budget.

And it is ridiculous the way the government reacted.  But Nouri's reactions are always ridiculous.  At the heart of everything he does is the knowledge that he is an illegitimate ruler.  He was not the choice of the Iraqi Parliament.  The Bush White House vetoed the Parliament's choice and that's how Nouri became prime minister in 2006.  In 2010, voters showed their support for Iraqiya.  Nouri only got a second term because the Barack White House backed him and came up with the idea of using a contract -- the US-brokered Erbil Agreement -- to 'grant' Nouri a second term as prime minister since the Constitution did not allow for him to have a second term as a result of the votes.  When you are an illegitimate leader, you always fear the public. 

In Kirkuk today, All Iraq News reports, a Turkman was kidnapped and taken from his home.   Kidnappings have long been a staple of the landscape of violence in post-invasion Iraq.  Now, as the month of February, winds down, the number of people killed during a month is yet again in the triple digits.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 313 violent deaths in Iraq this month.  That leaves two more days for them to count (today and tomorrow).  And violence is already being reported today. All Iraq News reports that the Mosul Municipality Department's head of Human Resources, Nadhim Khalaf, was shot dead in front of his home and a Baghdad grocery bombing left two people injured.  In addition, they note that a missile has targeted a police station in south Kirkuk.  National Iraq News Agency notes that the beheaded corpse of a 15-year-old male was discovered in Falluja, and, late last night, a stun grenade was tossed at the Basra home of attorney Tariq Jaber.  Also late last night, Alsumaria reports that a person sitting in Baghdad's Cafe Hurriya was shot dead by unknown assailantsAlsumaria also says the corpse discovered in Falluja was that of a 17-year-old male.

 All Iraq News reports that an announcement by the Ministry of Trade declared there would be a referendum on whether or not to continue to provide flour via ration cards or to instead supply the citizens with money they could spend on flour (or whatever).  The rations program began in 1995 and has been repeatedly slashed since the start of the Iraq War at the repeated request of the US government which frowns upon aid to the poor and struggling. Attempts to outright kill the program have been repeatedly met with a strong pushback from Iraqis so the US pushed for incremental cuts until there is little left.By 2010, the packages only offered sugar, rice, flour, cooking oil and milk. Milk for some, of course. Milk for all was cut sometime ago. Gone are the days of tomato paste, tea, chicken, soap, beans, detergent, cheese, etc. In a population of approximately 30 million (US government estimates vary between 26 million and 28 million -- of course, Nouri 'forgot' to conduct the census he was supposed to do in 2007), over eight million Iraqis are dependent upon the program to meet basic dietary needs as a result of the extreme poverty in Iraq.  Dropping back to the November 12th snapshot:

Something only slightly less than confusion surrounds the food-ration card system. Last Tuesday, Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh announced the cancellation of the program. There was a huge pushback that grew and grew -- from politicians, from clerics, from the people until Friday when it really couldn't be ignored. The program has been in place since 1991 meaning that it is all over half of Iraqis know (Iraq has a very young population, the median age has now risen to 21). It allowed Iraqis to get basic staples such as flour sugar, rice, etc. As the clerics, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, noted, this move would hurt the people who are already struggling economically. It was also an idiotic political move to make. In April, provinicial elections will be held. Nouri's already in campaign mode and this very unpopular move did not help him there. The smartest thing politically would have been to go into a full retreat on the proposal and announce that you had heard the people, to flatter them and make it appear you listened.
Saturday, there was a moment when it looked like Nouri might grasp that. All Iraq News reported the Cabinet of Ministers will hold an emergency meeting on the issue. Nouri's political slate is State of Law, his political party is Dawa. How unpopular is the move to cancel the food-ration program? Alsumaria reported Dawa announced that they had nothing to do with the decision and they're also tried to insist at the same time that it wasn't Nouri's decision. Kurdistan Alliance MP Sharif Soliman told All Iraq News that those responsible for the decision are trying to make up excuses and push the blame elsewhere. The Kurdistan Alliance's Mohsen Saadoun told Alsumaria that Nouri is responsible for this decision.
Today Alsumaria reports that the food program is not getting the axe. Instead, the people will be able to decide if they would like to remain on the existing system or receive cash. When you tell people they can remain on the ration card system or they can get cash, when you tell that to people in a bad economy with many bills, they will be tempted to go for the cash. The ration card is the better system. But there are bills owed that have to be paid and there is the hope in people that things have to get better. So they will tell themselves that they can make it right now with the cash and that, in a few months or a year, fate will provide and things will be better. In the meantime, they've been moved off the progam and the prices -- as Sistani, politicans and the people have noted -- will sky rocket. So the money will be of little use to them then.
But they won't be able to go back on the ration card system. The point is to dismantle the system. That was what the US government tried to do immediately after the invasion. It's what Nouri and others have done with the constant reduction of what rations the cards provided. All Iraq News notes the Parliament has voted to cancel the decision to replace the cards with cash but it's not clear whether the Cabinet's emergency meeting and new decision overrides that move by the Parliament.  Khalid al-Ansary and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) covers it in a brief English language story.

And now they're getting ready to vote.  But this was a dumb move, always.  It was dumb politically and it was dumb when it comes to the health of the Iraqi people.  Now Nouri's inviting people to spend a year on this program . . . before parliamentary elections.  That's a year to grow hostile should you drop flour to receive money. 

Suadad al-Salhy and Isabel Coles (Reuters) report that Iraqi Transportation Minister Hadi al-Amiri declared today that Turkey and Qatar supporting the "Syrian insurgents is tantamount to a declaration of war against Iraq." From November 26, 2011:

And Nouri is so divisive that the Badr Organization (headed by Hadi al-Amiri) is breaking with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (headed by Ammar al-Hakim). Al Rafidyan reports that move is yet another sign of the crisis facing the National Alliance -- a loose grouping of Shi'ites including State of Law, the Sadr bloc and others -- which backed Nouri for prime minister. By backing Nouri, Hadi al-Amiri was given the portfolio for the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Communication.

The Badr Organization was previously the Badr Brigade which came to be in 1982 in Iran and was the armed wing and they spread into Iraq in April 2003. Hadi al-Amiri has gone public with his issues with the Islamic Supreme Council including that Ammar al-Hakim was selected to fill the post created when Ammar's father passed away. al-Amiri has called that moment when the seeds of division began to take root and decried the leaders who voted Ammar al-Hakim in for, in his opinion, choosing a successor not based on wisdom but to keep the control within the al-Hakim family.

Hadi appears to be working with Nouri again.  Nouri made similar points in an AP interview with Adam Schreck and Qassim Abdul-Zahra: "Nouri al-Maliki stopped short of voicing outright support for Syrian President Bashar Assad's embattled regime. But his comments in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press marked one of his strongest warnings yet about the turmoil that the collapse of the Syrian government could create."

"Together there's no challenge we can't meet on behalf of our veterans," declared Veterans Affairs Committee Jeff Miller declared yesterday at a hearing where members of Congress heard from Disabled Veterans of America.  Chair Bernie Sanders offered, "It is unacceptable that veterans wait months and months and years and years to get those claims adjudicated.  That is an issue we've got to work on and that we've got to solve."

Two Chairs?  Yes, not a typo.  Yesterday the House Veterans Affairs Committee and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a joint-hearing.  House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair is Jeff Miller, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair is Bernie Sanders.

Chair Sanders is the new Chair of the Committee.   Everybody finds their own way as Chair and Ranking Member.  I love Daniel Akaka, he's a great senator.  But I criticized him when he was in the post.  Chair Miller got raked over the coals by me for months.  And then, when he was doing a strong job, the raking was gone and I thought we were all aware that was due to the stronger job but a friend asked me if I hadn't noticed how Miller had adjusted so it obviously wasn't clear so there's a snapshot where I make a point to note that he didn't just improve, he grew into his role and was doing a strong job.  Senator Patty Murray? 

She's the exception.  Over a year before she became Chair, we were advocating for her to be the Chair here.  That was because she had the energy, she had the skills and she had the determination.  She's the rare person who takes over as Chair and hits the ground running.  I don't believe we ever had a need to criticize her negatively as Chair.  By the same token, I am sure she did not get the praise others would have gotten for the same work.  In the coverage of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearings, we advocated for her to be the Chair and when she became the Chair, she really did the amazing job that most knew she was capable of.  And because we expected her to do such a great job, we were able to focus on what she was doing and she probably got short changed in terms of praise here as a result.  So my apologies for that.  She was a great Chair and I wish she was still Chair.  (She now Chairs the Senate Budget Committee and she remains on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.)

I say all of that to note that things just aren't fair.  Miller's performance got critiques that Murray's never did.  I paid attention to Miller's performance because I found it lacking.  I didn't even note Murray's performance because it was so professional -- from day one as Chair -- that we were able to instead focus on what happened in the hearings.  And let's put in an honor that's been bestowed upon Senator Murray.  Her office issued the following today:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834

Senator Murray Honored by Military Order of the Purple Heart
Recognized for leadership and distinguished service to our nation's veterans
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) was presented the Inspirational Leadership Award by the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) during a private ceremony in her Capitol Hill offices. MOPH National Commander Bruce McKenty presented this year’s award to Senator Murray which read:
“Since being elected to the Senate in 1992, Senator Patty Murray has consistently served as an advocate for veterans, military members and their families.
“Having been raised in the family of a disabled World War II veteran, she came to the Senate fully understanding the sacrifices, as well as the physical and emotional scars the veterans bring home with them.
“Senator Murray was the first female Senator to serve on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and serves as its Chair in the 112th Congress. She has consistently been a tireless advocate for all veterans.
“She led the battle for increased funding for veterans’ healthcare and increased benefits, and profoundly recognized the importance of specialized programs for veterans suffering from TBI and PTSD.
“Senator Murray continues to support education and employment opportunities, better health care for women veterans and a myriad of other programs that she believes America owes its veterans.
“Senator Murray’s service reflects great credit upon herself, the United States Senate and the United States of America.”
The organization now known as the "Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. Inc.," was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all who have received the decoration. Chartered by the Congress, The MOPH is unique among Veteran Service Organizations in that all its members were wounded in combat. For this sacrifice, they were awarded the Purple Heart Medal.
Click here to download high resolution photo.

Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834
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So congratulations to Senator Murray on a well deserved honor.

As I stated earlier, Chair Jeff Miller grew stronger and stronger and is a very good Chair today.  Bernie Sanders may grow stronger and stronger.  But this was his first hearing as Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

In these hearings, the joint-hearings where they hear from one service group, you're really just trying to get your message out -- regardless of whether you're providing testimony on behalf of your organization to the Committee or whether you're a member of the Committee addressing the veterans gathered and outlining what you hope to do or assuring what you plan to do.  One of Chair Sanders' big points -- probably his biggest -- was what follows.

Chair Bernie Sanders:  Last point.  How many people in this room know what a chained CPI is? See, everybody up here knows what a Chained CPI is.  We know.  But most people in America don't know.  So on TV tonight, you're going to hear people talking about the need for entitlement reform for a Chained CPI.  What a Chained CPI is a different way of configuring COLAS for Social Security and for disabled veterans.  A Chained CPI would make significant cuts for some 3,000,000 disabled veterans as well as everybody on Social Security.  Now I feel very strongly that (a) the deficit situation is a serious problem, it has to be dealt with but you don't deal with it on the backs of disabled veterans and widows who lost their husbands in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Anyone see any problems?

First up, don't insult you audience.  Did he mean to?  No.   'We all know up here but you don't' doesn't necessarily sound welcoming and was griped about by three veterans I spoke with after the hearing.  Two more veterans were confused by "COLAs."  They knew he didn't mean sodas.  But what did he mean?  COLA is a Cost Of Living Adjustment.  I doubt anyone is now confused reading "Cost Of Living Adjustment."  The three offended were all over fifty.  Not surprising, COLA questions came from two veterans under the age of thirty.  You're going to have a wide audience of veterans and you need, if you're the Chair, to communicate with them.  Anytime they're stopping to ask "Hey, what's COLA?" or "Did he just insult me?" -- that's time they stop listening because your words have distracted them. The point was important to Sanders -- he's one of the strongest advocates for Social Security in the Senate.  But he lost five I spoke to.  This was the first hearing as Chair of the Committee.  I do feel it was a mistake.  It wasn't a mistake that's going to haunt him or even be remembered in a month.  But it did take place and it was remarked on (strongly) by three veterans.  I did share with them a point that's worth noting here.  That section that we quoted, it wasn't being read.  Chair Sanders was speaking off the cuff and trying to get away from the reading aspect of his statements.  I'm not trying to rescue him.  If I were trying to rescue him, I'd be saying, "And he looked nervous, everybody, it was his first time chairing!"  He didn't look nervous.  He looked comfortable in his environment.  It was a mistake -- in that the wording distracted from an important point he wanted to make -- but it wasn't a major one or the end of the world.

I spoke with twelve veterans after the hearing -- two were unimpressed with the entire hearing -- it was the first one they'd attended that was one service organization.  Those really aren't typical hearings.  There's no real questioning and not a panel of witnesses because usually one person speaks for all.  That left ten veterans.  We've already noted five, the other five?  Two were impressed with Miller (though one confused him with Senator John Boozman, he was praising the remarks Miller had made).  Two felt all the members who spoke did a good job.  And one felt House Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael Michaud did a great job.  I thought he did as well and he's been slighted the last two times I've covered full House Veterans Affairs Committee hearings because I've wanted to quote him but there were other aspects of the hearing and other representatives we had to grab. 

Ranking Member Mike Michaud:  As you know, the administration has delayed the release of its Fiscal Year 2014 proposal.  While VA programs are spared from the effects of sequestration, it does not mean that veterans will be left unaffected.  Veterans will lose extended unemployment insurance as well as face cuts in the critical TAP program -- just to name a few.  In addition, all of our citizens will face the effects of sequestration at the state and local levels as well.  The VA is at a crossroads.  Many important decisions will need to be made as we look towards the future.  Working with you and the VA, we'll make sure that the choices are both fiscally responsible and in the best interests of our veterans.  I look forward to your testimony today.  Again, thank you and your organization for the years of service that you have given to make sure that veterans issues and their families issues are heard here on the Hill so thank you very much, Commander.

Commander is Larry Polzin and he is the National Commander of Disabled Veterans of America.  There are many ways a veteran can end up being disabled.  They can be harmed while serving, for example.  When we think of that, we may think of the loss of a limb or of emotional or mental wounds.  Hearing issues actually remain a constant even in the most recent wars of Iraq and Afghanistan.  As Manuel Gallegus (CBS News HealthWatch -- link is text and video) reported last May,  "60% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have damaged hearing" -- with tinnitus being the most common, followed by hearing loss.  We note that regularly because veterans write to the public e-mail account to note the hearing issues and how they often feel that newer and 'hotter' disabilities get attention while hearing issues don't.  One thing that hasn't gotten attention in the last weeks from me is the victims of burn pits.  I'm an idiot.  My apologies for being an idiot.  My plan was to note regularly the upcoming symposium -- it's next week -- and I believe we only noted it twice, the last time near the start of the month.  Disabilities from burn pits are life threatening.  The Congress passed a burn pit registry bill at the very end of the last session and that is great news but there is so much to be done. 

Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York is gearing up to host a symposium on the issue.  This will be their second one, their 2nd Annual Scientific Symposium on Lung Health after Deployment to Iraq & Afghanistan.  The symposium will take place March 4th which isn't that far away.  If you'd like to register to attend, you can click here for the registration info if you're doing it by mail or by fax as well as a registration link if you'd like to register online.  A resource for burn pit issues  is Burn Pits 360

Two key points here.  Friday, March 1st is the last day to register to attend the symposium.  So keep that in mind.  Second, one of the things the Veterans Affairs Committees in both houses have long addressed is rural veterans.  Senator Jon Tester, for example, often notes the rural veterans in his state and how certain computer interaction would benefit them.  If you're a rural veteran or you're no where near Stony Brook, New York, they are offering -- for $50 for veterans or veteran family members -- a live stream of the symposium.  So that may be something that you'll be interested in. 

The Congressional hearing we noted earlier was a joint-hearing of the House and Senate's veterans committees.  Chair Bernie Sanders solos in his first Senate hearing as Chair next month:


There will be a meeting of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs in SR-418, Russell Senate Office Building, on Wednesday, March 13, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. to conduct a hearing titled "VA Claims Process -- Review of VA's Transformation Efforts."


Jeff Johnson
Deputy Clerk/ Systems Administrator
412 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510 | 202.224.6478