Saturday, May 16, 2009

No spine



Obama is emerging as a leader so committed to pragmatism that he will move to a new position with barely a shrug.
[. . . ]
He said he would oppose making the detainee pictures public -- a 180-degree switch that could put him at odds with a federal judge who ordered them released. And he declared that the administration would stick with a modified version of the Bush administration's military tribunals for trying terrorism suspects; during the campaign he had promised to rely on federal courts and the traditional military justice system.
Similarly, on domestic policy, Obama aides last week suggested that much of the fees for exceeding carbon emissions caps might be given to factory owners and power companies if that's what it takes to gain their support for the proposal. During the campaign, Obama called for the revenues to be used for alternative energy technology and middle-class tax cuts.
The recent shifts in position appear to be part of a pattern of starting in a liberal position and then rerouting toward the center.



Steven D. Green was convicted two Thursdays ago in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. His sentence hearing is ongoing and yesterday was day four. Brett Barrouquere (AP) reports, "U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell told jurors they should have the case for deliberations by Wednesday. He then adjourned court until Monday, when the defense is expected to present more witnesses." Barrouquere has been covering this case for nearly three years and he's the only one who's filed a report on Thursday's court room proceedings.

If the defense continues to present witnesses as late as Wednesday morning they will have offered 7 days of testimony for the sentencing phase. The trial itself, to determine guilt or innocence, lasted only 8 days. The defense began their presentation May 4th and concluded it May 5th. They offered two days of witness testimony when the jury was to determine whether Green was guilty or innocent. (The jury found Green guilty on all counts.) By contrast, they have already spent twice that amount of time calling witnesses this week.Away from the jury, the defense suffered a setback this week. They'd filed a motion arguing that some of the counts Green was convicted of should be dropped. Judge Russell considered their motion and the motion filed by Marisa Ford arguing the prosecution's case.Yesterday Judge Thomas ruled, "Defendant has moved the Court to (1) dismiss and/or preclude sentencing on counts 3-10, alternatively to (2) dismiss and/or preclude sentencing on counts 13-15, and alternatively to (3) permit sentencing on one murder count per victim. The United States has responded (DN 247). This matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion is DENIED."The motion by the defense was a head scratcher since the time to make such a motion (which most likely would have been denied) was before the conviction, not after. Not after the jury made a determination. The motion continues the pattern of the defense doing more work in the sentencing phase than they did when the jury was determining guilt or innocence.Green is facing the death penalty and to be sentenced to death, every person on the jury must vote in favor of a death sentence. Should the jury be unable to make a determination, the judge would sentence Green and, should that happen, the it would be a life sentence of imprisonment.

Meanwhile Wikileaks posts [PDF format warning] the US Military's Public Affairs Guidance memo on the case from back in 2006 and Wikileaks notes that they refer to Abeer as "a young woman" (at one point the US military was insisting Abeer was 24-years-old). The document identifies its target audience as Iraqis first and foremost.

"We have an update now on Monday's shooting rampage at a US military stress clinic in Iraq in which a soldier gunned down 2 military doctors and 3 other servicemen," declared Jeff Glor last night on The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric (here for video, and Ruth noted this last night). "CBS News has learned the suspect, Sgt. John Russell, was furious with doctors at the clinic, complaining they didn't believe he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The bodies of three victims arrived at Dover Air Force Base last night." The shooting was a topic on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show and while Barbara Slavin (Washington Times) was commenting, things were fact based. But Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers) and the 'delightful' Demetri Sevastoulo (Financial Times) had to get creative and, for Demetri, sexist.

Diane Rehm: He was a 21-year Army veteran, Barbara, accused of gunning down five fellow US troops. What were the circumstances?

Barbara Slavin: Well not entirely clear yet. A Sgt John Russell, I believe he was on his third tour in Iraq, and he apparently was very concerned that he was not able to keep up with the mortgage payments on his home in the US --
Which is why he re-enlisted in order to make money.

Barbara Slavin: Yeah. He clearly had mental problems. Unfortunately he was sent, I think, against his will to a mental health facility at Camp Liberty outside Baghdad and that's where he executed five people.

Diane Rehm: He had apparently gotten into a fracas with his controlling officer.

Demetri Sevastoulo: Yeah he did but I think the broader point that needs to be made here is that the military in the last two years has seen a spike in suicides or mental health related incidents like that and it's becoming a big problem. Until about a couple of years ago, the level of suicides in the military or -- or people shooting each other -- wasn't that high compared to the rest of the population. But in the last couple of years, we've seen a spike and you've seen a big push by Adm [Mike] Mullen the chair man of the Joint Chiefs [of Staff] to get people to go for treatment when they have mental health problems.

Diane Rehm: But it's the extraordinary stress that these people are under no matter what their ages generally. Jonathan?

Jonathan S. Landay: The -- the man who's been accused of this shooting in -- in Baghdad in fact according to what I understand, has never been in combat.He was an electronic specialist and attached to an engineering unit. Apparently one of his tasks was to go and salvage electric components from vehicles that had been hit by IEDs by -- bey explosives. And in doing so witnesses the gory aftermath of -- of these attacks. He was on -- nearing the end of his third tour in Iraq.

Diane Rehm: He had also been in Bosnia, Herzegovina.

Jonathan: And Kosovo. That is correct. And I think Demetri hits on the bigger point. There was a study done last year by the RAND Corporation which found that a full 20% of the 1.6 million US service people who have been through Afghanistan and Iraq are suffering from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that only about half of them seek treatment because they see it as a stigma attached to this --

Diane Rehm: Exactly.

Jonathan S. Landay: Even those half that do seek treatment don't get adequate treatment.

They just make up what ever they want to, don't they? For example, resident pig Demetri Sevastoulo would bring up a general whose name he didn't know who he thought sought treatment (but there's no way to check that, is there Demetri) and went public "to say to the younger guys" -- Demetri, you are aware that women serve in the US military, right? Or are you still too busy lusting for a cat fight between Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni to grasp that? Jonathan S. Landay declared "only about half of them seek treatment because they see it as a stigma attached to this". Did RAND's study find that? No. First off the study [PDF format warning] entitled "Invisible Wounds of War: Summary and Recommendations" was on PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The study extrapolated:

Assuming that the prevalence found in this study is representative of the 1.64 million individuals who have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq to date, we estimate that approximately 300,000 individuals currently suffer from PTSD or major depression and that 320,000 veterans report having experience a probabe TBI during deployment.

53% of those studied had sought treatment for PTSD. Landay maintained that the service members see a stigma. They do? Really?
In general, respondents were concerned that getting treatment would not be kept confidential and would constrain future job assignments and career advancement. About 45 percent were concerned that drug therapies for mental health problems may have unpleasant side effects, and about one-quarter thought that even good mental health care was not very effective. Logistical barriers to mental health treatment, such as time, money, and access, were mentioned less frequently but may still be important barriers for many individuals. At the same time, it is possible that servicemembers and veterans do not seek treatment they may perceive little or no benefit.

They see a stigma? Or they're worried that their information won't be kept confidential and will effect job promotions and future tasks? There's a world of difference between a stigma that they would identify as 'I believe seeking treatment is a sign of weakness' and what the study ACTUALLY found which was that they fear they will be stigmatized because their records will not be kept confidential. Considering all the information the VA has repeatedly accidentally made public this decade, that would be a reasonable concern. Their concern also goes to the culture in the military. It does not go to their own personal opinions of therapy which is what Landay suggested.

And actually the number one answer was medications: "The medications that might help have too many side effects." To get their number one answer, the study combined "It could harm my career" with "My coworkers would have less confidence in me if they found out" and should have also tossed in "I could be denied a security clearance" which was ahead of "My coworkers would have less confidence in me if they found found out." (Refer to diagram 2.3 on page 14 of the report.) But the number one single answer was medications.

Today the Las Vegas Sun editorializes, "A tragic crime in Iraq:"Studies indicate that as many as one in five soldiers who have served in the combat zone have anxiety, depression or other mental health issues. The military's handling of those afflictions has been terrible, marked by poor treatment of those seeking help and a high suicide rate among soldiers. The sergeant's father, John Michael Russell, said his son was finishing his third tour in Iraq and thought his commanders were trying to drive him out of the service. He said his son feared losing his job and his military pension. The elder Russell noted the stigma attached to a soldier accused of having a mental health issue. "I think they broke him," he said. [. . .] Because the Pentagon has continually failed to address the problem, Congress should step in and make sure that those who serve in combat are given the help they need. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Feb. 28th, the US House Armed Services Committee (discussing FY2009 Defense budget) raised this issue with US House Rep Patrick Murphy asking General George Casey if Congress needed to legislate dwell time to ensure that service members were getting the time they needed:
Murphy noted that "we're begging for about 7,000 troops for Afghanistan from our allies" and wondered if Congress needed to "mandate that if you deploy for 15 months, you're home for 15 months, if you deploy for 12 months, you're home for 12 months"? Casey wasn't keen on that idea and claimed it would interfere with the military's ability to do their job. Which makes the 'promise' Casey and Geren made earlier this week seem even more hollow (even more hollow than Casey claimed, in today's hearings, his experiences in the seventies were).
April 1, 2008, US House Rep Shelley Berkley was pointing out to Walter Reed Amry Institute of Research's Col Charles W. Hoge that he'd just stated 12 months was not enough dwell time (he hemmed and hawed but agreed he'd just said it) and she pointed out that some US service members didn't even get that. The Las Vegas Sun is correct, Congress needs to legislate on this and they need to do so immediately.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"All but 60 House members vote to fund illegal war"
"Steven D. Green's Defense Team Suffers Setback"
"I Hate The War "
"Beans and Mac in the Kitchen"
"Reporting on the Congress"
"They should be ashamed of themselves"
"New Adventures of Old Christine, ACLU, etc."
"like daughter, like dork"
"aclu, pelosi, bob graham"
"Another broken promise"
"CBS Evening News with Katie Couric streams live"
"Laugh or cry, your choice"
"Senate Armed Services Committee"
"What's the Whore Melissa Lacewell Harris doing?"
"Don't Look Back"
"The zombies wake up?"
"Coward Zinn, Paul Street, Pancake Naomi"
"No sympathy, sorry "
"ACLU, al-Sadr, more"
"Matt Rothschild awakes from his wet dream"


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