Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bad reviews pour in

BULLY BOY PRESS & CEDRIC'S BIG MIX -- THE KOOL-AID TABLE


IT IS NOT GOOD TO BE A FADING STARLET AS CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O IS SLOWLY LEARNING.

THE REVIEWS FOR HIS SANDLES AND JEANS ENSEMBLE WERE CUTTING.

THE QUEEN OF NICE ROSIE O'DONNELL IS CALLING OUT HIS APPAREANCE ON THE VIEW AND THE WASHINGTON POST MAY HAVE THE MOST DEVASTATING REVIEW OF THAT APPEARANCE:

You know the guy I mean. He’s the guy at the bar trying to shout substantive remarks about health-care reform over the pounding music. "This band is great!" you yell. "I think substantive cost savings over the next decade will bend the curve!" he yells back. He’s the guy who makes you change the channel from "True Blood" to C-SPAN because he can’t miss a second of that old gentleman who slowly reads things into the record. He’s the guy who shakes you awake at 2:00 a.m., shouting, "I’ve just had an insight into tax code reform!" That guy.

REACHED FOR COMMENT, FADED STARLET BARRY O OFFERED THAT "IT MAY BE TIME TO GO FULL FRONTAL."
FROM THE TCI WIRE:

Starting in the US, Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) reports, "At a time of record-high military suicides, commanders are ignoring the mental health problems of American soldiers and not winnowing out enough of those with records of substance abuse and crime, a United States Army report has concluded." The report is 234 pages of text entitled [PDF format warning] "ARMY: Health Promotion Risk Reduction Suicide Prevention REPORT 2010." The report opens with a note from Gen Peter W. Chiarelli which explains Fiscal Year 2009 saw 160 suicides among active duty soldiers and 239 suicides in the Army Reserves. Page i conveys that the Army wants to appear alarmed: "This is tragic!" It's very rare you encounter an exclamation point in a government report. So what has the Army been doing -- and the report covers only that branch of the military, the Army and Army reserves -- to address the problem?
Concrete steps taken by the Army may included the following (list is from page 126 of the report):
* June 2009, accessions waivers were reduced for adult felony (major misconduct) convictions; and drug/alcohol positive tests; misconduct (misdemeanor)/major misconduct for drug ues; possession; or drug paraphernalia, to include marijuana. This means over 4,000 recruits were not accepted into the Army compared to 2008.
* Revised legacy protocols for investigating and reporting suicide.
* Standardized a council at every post, camp and station to integrate all aspects of health promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention into the community.
May? The list continues on subsequent pages and also insists that they have "Reduced the stigma associated with counseling services and maintained continuity of care by requiring all Soldiers to be in- and out-process through Behavior Health (BH), Social Work Services and ASAP." No, they haven't reduced the stigma.
And it's so stupid for them to continue to claim that. There are officers -- high-ranking ones -- who have sought counseling. They need to be encouraged to step forward and put a face on the issue. The stigma doesn't vanish from saying "There's nothing wrong with it."
over and over. The stigma vanishes when General Joe or Joanne Martin steps forward and says, "I went through a period where I was feeling really low. I couldn't understand that period or my mood, so I sought help. It made me a better soldier, it made me a better commander." That's what ends the stigma. When the enlisted can see that it helped someone high ranking and can see that there's no punishment or fall out for them seeking help. When a general stands up and makes such a statement, the thoughts no longer are a sign of 'weakness' but are natural thoughts that anyone could have and seeking help for them becomes a duty a soldier has to those he/she serves with and to his/her self. Until those in leadership start speaking out, serving as the Army's own personal PSA, nothing's going to change. And it's going to require men and women speaking out in the officers ranks because there are men and women serving. But it's especially going to require men coming forward because the stigma is there and 15 women generals, majors and lieutenants can come forward and it will not make a difference for a number of male soldiers because they will dismiss it with something like, "Well women are better in touch with their feelings."
The report does have objections and criticisms. Gen Peter Chiarelli shared with NPR last night that he feels that there are a number of factors at play including repeat deployments. He's probably correct on about the factors because the three he gave are interelated. Finances and family life and, if you're doing repeat deployments, you are limited in how far you can get ahead in a job that i not the US military due to the fact that you're constantly deployed. Constant deployments also affect your family. So the three are interrelated. And all three can wear on anyone and cause grief, shock, sadness, any number of emotions in the normal -- perfectly normal -- human range. The report focused on the Army. Today on Morning Edition (NPR -- link has text and audio), Wade Goodwyn reported on Mary Gallagher who has had to survive and live with her husband James Gallagher's decision to take his own life. James Gallagher was an Iraq War veterna, a Marine.
Mary Gallagher: Most Marines were not ones to really talk at all. Jim always said he'd placed it right in his heart and he said I'll carry it forward because that's what I have to do and that's how I'll get through it. I'm sure he saw a lot of ugly things, but I just don't know, you know, all the ugly he did see. [. . .] To me, he just seemed sad. You know, he was, you know, not quite himself but, you know, again -- I just had no idea that he was really struggling as bad as he was. And obviously he was struggling a lot. And that's the hardest part for me, you know? It's something I carry with myself every day -- that I didn't notice, that I didn't realize how much he was hurting.
Mary Gallagher is a member of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) -- an organization for the loved ones of service members who have taken their own lives and which explains at their web site, "We are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whether it is just to talk, or meet others with shared experiences and understanding, or to find support and information from our professional network of resources."
From service members to veterans, we noted in yesterday's snapshot there was a press release from a Republican member of Congress but we didn't have room for it. Steve Buyer is from Indiana and serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee where he is Ranking Member. His office released the following:
Continuing in his efforts to improve the lives of veterans and the Department of Veterans' Affairs, Congressman Steve Buyer (IN-04), Ranking Member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, offered three amendments during the House consideration of the Military Construction and Veterans' Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (MILCON VA) on Wednesday. Congressman Buyer offered five amendments to the House Committee on Rules, though only three of the amendments were accepted by the committee. Of the Congressman's accepted amendments, the House passed all three by a voice vote.
The first amendment offered by Congressman Buyer would require that $10 million of the $2.6 billion appropriated for VA General Operating Expenses be used to increase the number of VA employees available to provided vocational training and rehabilitation to veterans with service-connected disabilities. The goal of VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program is to put disabled veterans back to work, or for the most severely disabled, to live as independently as possible.
The Congressman explained that the VA's counselors currently have an average caseload of over 130 disabled veterans. Because of the heavy workload which includes a significant amount of case management and regular interaction with their clients, the wait time for a disabled veteran to actually enter vocational training is nearly six months. That is on top of the average of the 6 months it takes to receive a disability rating needed to even become eligible for this benefit.
"The $10 million included in my amendment would fund one hundred additional professional level staff and reduce the caseload to a more manageable average of one hundred cases per counselor thereby shortening the time it takes for a veteran to begin their training. For many veterans and servicemembers VR&E training is the bridge to meaningful and productive employment," stated the Congressman.
The second amendment offered by the Congressman would require $162 million of the $508 million appropriated for VA construction of minor projects be used for renewable energy projects at the VA's medical facility campuses. Congressman Buyer for the past three years has worked with the Department to increase the VA's use of renewable energy. In 2009, the Congressman was responsible for securing funding to allow VA's renewable energy projects to continue in fiscal year 2010 -- and the amendment would continue this work.
"As the second largest Federal department operating the largest health care system in the nation, the VA is uniquely positioned to advance the use of alternative sources of energy," noted Buyer. "Savings accrued from an increased reliance on alternative energy, would allow additional resources to be devoted to improving the care and services offered to our veterans and reducing the rising budget deficit."
The last amendment offered by Congressman Buyer requires that $8 million of the $2.6 billion appropriated for VA General Operating Expenses be used to fund the adaptive sports grant program and that an additional $2 million be used to provide supplementary funding for the Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events. The Congressman notes the $10 million would be used to fund the second year of the VA/U.S. Paralympics Adaptive Sports Program for disabled veterans.
"Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Olympic training center in San Diego. I was inspired by the attitude and positive example of our Olympians that train there, which they continue to set for all Americans. It truly was a remarkable place, and as I have said before, I learned that there is never a 'bad' day at the Olympic training center," expressed Buyer.
The Congressman went on to explain the amendment's purpose, "The US Paralympic program establishes partnerships with local adaptive sports programs. US Paralympics currently has over 100 of these partnerships in place across the nation. These local programs submit a proposal describing how they intend to attract disabled veterans to their adaptive sports programs. The types of programs run the gamut of sports from track and field to marksmanship, water sports, volleyball, and wheelchair team games like basketball, soccer and rugby. In short, there is a sport for any disabled veteran. The US Paralympics then chooses the best proposals and submits a funding proposal to VA. My amendment would provide $10 million to fund the second year of a 4-year program."
That's the US Congress. Iraq really has no Congress currently. It's met once, for less than twenty minutes in that last four months with no plans to meet again anytime soon. What's going on? The political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 23 days. Today Andrew England and Anna Fifield (Financial Times of London) report that a US diplomatic mission is planned for August -- by which point, the current nominee for US Ambassador to Baghdad, James Jeffrey, may have been confirmed.


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Thursday, July 29, 2010

He just doesn't get it

BULLY BOY PRESS & CEDRIC'S BIG MIX -- THE KOOL-AID TABLE

CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O IS NOT A HAPPY CAMPER. WHINING THAT HE "NEVER GETS TO HAV FUN" AND THAT EVERYONE IS "OUT TO GET ME," GONE ARE THE DAYS OF HOPE, LONG GONE.

INSTEAD HE WHINES TO RAHM TONIGHT WANTING TO BE THE NEW HOST OF AMERICAN IDOL. TOLD BY RAHM THAT THE JOB IS BENEATH HIM, BARRY O REPLIES, "NO WAY! HONEST! REALLY RAHM!"

MEANWHILE HE IS OPPOSED TO THE NOTION THAT THEY SHOULD MAKE THE 2010 ELECTIONS ABOUT GEORGE W. BUSH. HE'S NOT CONCERNED FOR ANY ETHICAL REASON, YOU UNDERSTAND, HE JUST DOESN'T "WANT TO DRESS RETRO OVER AND OVER."

FROM THE TCI WIRE
:


"I am glad to see we are joined by representatives from the Department of Defense which is responsible for training our men and women in uniform to meet the demands of their respective military career," declared US House Rep Stephanie Herseth Sandlin this afternoon bringing to order the House Veterans Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. "I am also glad to see the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor who both oversee these unique benefits and programs that may help our nation's veterans gain meaningful employment after their military service." She explained that the Subcomittee was continuing their work on the issue of the unemployment rate for veterans (21.6% in 2009). Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is the Chair of the Subcommittee, US House Rep Gus Bilirakis is the Ranking Member. In his opening remarks, Bilrakis noted, "Too often our men and women are required to repeat education already gained in military service. To me, that means that states need to be more flexible in recognizing military training and skills. I'm disappointed that the National Governor's Associated declined once again to join us here today. To me, the states hold the key to solving this dilemma."

The first panel was composed of Veterans of Foreign Wars' Eric Hillerman, the American Legion's Joseph C. Shapre Jr., the Blinded Veterans Association's Thomas Zampieri and Military.com/ Monster Worldwide's Vince Patton. We'll note this exchange from it.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: From all of Military.com's transition career tools, which ones have been in the greatest demand by service members and veterans? Is it the mentor network?

Vince Patton: Yes, ma'am. The mentor network definitely is one of the best demand because what we have found is by not just having the technology itself, but our veterans would like to have somebody to connect with one another. And this is probably one of the successes of the internet as a whole, that people are connecting with one another. By using our veteran career network where the veterans are connecting and talking to each other, helping them with writing resumes, it's been very, very helpful.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: For Mr. Hilleman and Mr. Shapre, you had both stated in your testimony -- I think one of the recommendations, Mr. Hilleman, was to fund a study of all MOSs [Military Occupational Specialty]. And Mr. Shapre you had stated that it would be helpful to have a system that could be devised to translate the full nature of a service members' skills and abilities. Do you think that having a study that would look at all MOSs and having a system designed in that way is -- would provide something that Military.com either currently isn't providing or is not capable of providing at this point?

Eric Hilleman: Um, Madame Chairwoman, currently ACE [American Council on Education] does study specific school houses and specific MOSs with the exception of the air force because the air force has their own junior college or community college within the air force. That gives transferrable credit for education. But the contract between DoD and ACE is at the request of DoD so it does not study every single MOSs or every single course, it's just what DoD is contracted with ACE to study. That and ACE currently only has partners with our credit reciprocity or credit acceptance of 30 -- excuse me, 2300 universities nation wide. So quite a few universities. But that -- The list is not fully encompassing so I think we'd like to see if we could improve that through the academic sphere.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Yes, so your focused on the study so that it would look at the transfer of credits into colleges and universities versus the career transition into direct employment.

Eric Hilleman: I think there needs to be a wall between two studies. The focus on what's going on with ACE and currently with DoD and then take a look at also -- and I think unfortunately this-this has to go on an industry-industry basis and state by state. The Army Nursing Program that we mentioned in our testimony. Nowhere on the sight does it say that Air Force, Navy or Coast Guard nurses are excepted from the same tests that the Army Nurses are expected to sit for. So there's high degrees of variances from state to state. And I think that is the largest challenge to developing some agreement where credits transfer the military into the private sector.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Mr. Shapre?

John Shapre: I agree with everything that Mr. Hilleman has stated but we also -- The other thing we're really focusing on is we would like to see a lot of this done prior to the person's transition out of the military.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Mm-hmm.

John Shapre: They should know exactly what their MOS training will allow them to do once they leave.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Well that raises another very important question on TAP. I know Secretary Jefferson's commited to reforming TAP. But I think Dr. Patton, you had some testimony as it relates to your perspective on how TAP doesn't always provide service members with what they need. I have had a mixed bag of responses from my constituents. Most recentlly two different members of 20-years plus of different branches of the armed forces who separated from military service. One thought TAP was fabulous, and the other thought it was completely useless. And they didn't take the program in the same place. Otherwise I would think we would have had more consistent response. What are your thoughts as it relates to TAP, any of you, how do we restructure this if necessary?

Vince Patton: Madame Chairwoman, I'll use my own personal experience when I went through TAP two years before I retired. I'm going through my TAP class and my needs are a little bit different than some of the other people that were sitting in that TAP class. Sitting next to me was a young man with three-years in the Coast Guard, a paygrade E4. He's got a total different focus on what's going to happen to him at the end of his time as what's going to happen to mine? I'm getting a retirement, my resume is a little bit more padded than his is. He's focused on trying to get into using education. So what happens in the TAP class is -- I have no problem with the content and I don't think anyone does. The problem is that it's not a one size fits all. But the system has kind of set that to be by virtue of getting everybody with different military walks of life into one setting and trying to come out with something of a commonality. What probably needs to happen, in my opinion, is more of looking at how we can reinforce that information before TAP, during TAP, as well as after TAP. So-so the whole TAP process is something that's evolving that should continue on well past the individual leaving the service.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Any other comments on TAP? I'm over time but I'm going to recognize the Ranking Member and come back for time. Any other comments on TAP?

John Sharpe: Well we know that the Dept of Labor is in the midst of redoing their entire TAP program. They're modernizing the program, something that we strongly agree with. A lot of the recommendations that are going into this new program is coming from the businesses that set on their veteran advisory board. A couple of years ago, we all went to a number of TAP programs across the country and looked to see how it could be improved. And a lot of the recommendations that came from various business owners -- we just -- we do think they're on the right road. We're still concerned with the fact that many service members are still not getting access to the TAP program.



The second panel was composed of the Dept of Labor's Assistant Secretary for Veterans Employment and Training Service's Raymond M. Jefferson, DoD's John Campbell accompanied by DoD's Ron Horne and the VA's Margarita Cocker. We'll note this exchange.

Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Now according to your written testimony and I think you touched on it just now as well, the VA provides certification preparation tests. Can you specify for which specialities and how you determine if the veterans eligible for participation in the preparation tests.

Margarita Cocker: Yes, ma'am. Preparation tests can be provided to any service member or veteran that requires it in order to be able to pass the exam. The process will involve the VRC -- the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor -- sitting down with the veteran and preparing the rehabilitation plan including any preparation test that might be needed. Depending on the industry standard for those types of exams and whether a preparation exam is typically expected to help the individual pass, that could be a given in the rehabilitation plan that the preparation test would be written in. However, if during the progress of the plan -- If it had not been written into the plan, it can be added later if the veteran feels that they're not confident enough to pass the test without a preparation course.

Chair Stephanie Herseth: And then on average, how long would it take for a service member or veteran to complete a transferable skills assessment from the point where they go through the vocational exploration phase, then receive an individualized and comprehensive plan until they're employed in their chosen field? Do you have a rough average?

Margarita Cocker: I do not have an average. I can take that question for the record. However, what I can say is that that is very individualized and dependent upon the level of education that that veteran will need to complete to get to the point of licensing and certification if it's required for that occupation. The evaluation process, the comprehensive assessment which includes the transferable skills assessment is conducted during the initial phase and I can certainly provide average numbers for the evaluation and planning phase. I can take that question for the record.

Chair Stephanie Herseth: Okay, I appreciate that. And can you give any examples from different career fields where it's been particularly challenging to secure licensing or certification?

Margarita Cocker: I don't have any specific occupations where I can say it's been challenging to achieve that?

Chair Stephanie Herseth: Any states?

Margarita Cocker: I can take that for the record though and research it further.



Rick Maze (Air Force Times) covered yesterday's House Veterans Committee hearing and is probably at the largest news outlet that did cover the hearing. It's rather surprising -- especially in the current poor economy, that billions of unaccountable dollars is not a story to other outlets. If you're late to the party, see yesterday's "Iraq snapshot" and Kat's "The House Veterans Affairs Committee was pissed." And very quickly noting a few highlights of yesterday's hearing.

The GAO repeatedly outlines the problems and the VA refuses to address them. US House Rep Cliff Stearns established this with his line of questioning and established that the VA has repeatedly been asked to get with the program but never can seem to do that. The same conclusions over and over by the GAO and each year billions go missing from the VA. As Ranking Member Steve Buyer observed, "I mean, right now, you could look back and the last three or four [VA] Secretaries -- I mean, they have, since 2000, increased these directives without execution."

Maybe the press ignored the story because there was consensus on both sides of the aisle?

* US House Rep Ann Kirkpatrick: "And Mr. Chairman, I share the sentiment of the other members of this Committee, that this is a very serious problem that we really need to stay on top of."

* Chair Bob Filner: "I would not underestimate the anger that my colleagues feel on this on both sides of the aisle."

If it was a lack of conflict that had them see it as a non-story, they missed it when the VA showed up for the second panel: The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Finance Edward Murray, the Chief Financial Officer W. Paul Kearns III and Chief Procurement and Logistics Officer Frederick Downs, Jr.

How much money is missing/unaccounted for? According to testimony from the VA to the Committee yesterday (specifically from Kearns):

2007: $6.9 billion
2008: $11 bilion
2009: $12 billion
2010: $12 billion*

2010 is an estimate from Kearns ("We're on track this year to be right at about the same level."). So add that up and the VA can't account for $41.9 billion.

$41.9 billion is missing/unaccounted for and that's not a story? This week a much, much smaller amount of unaccounted for US tax payer money has dominated the news cycle (money that was supposed to go to Iraqi reconstruction efforts and may or may not have -- no one knows where the $9.1 billion went). $41.9 billion isn't a story?


We have a Republican press release that will be noted tomorrow. It's on veterans issues -- and I'm not opposed to noting press releases from Republican Congress members; however, there's just not space for it in today's snapshot. The hearing today was interesting and there were a large number of visitors that e-mailed about the hearing earlier this week noting what would be helpful to them in the coverage. (These are veterans and veterans spouses.) So that's what I based the excerpts on. And since that's based on input, I really can't cut any of those excerpts. We'll note the press release, in full, tomorrow.

One thing we have to note, on the issue of service members is stop-loss. That's the back door draft, where you've served your time but your 'stopped' from leaving because the US military is suffering too many losses (from discharges, recruitment, demand, etc). There's a new development for thos who have been stop-lossed.

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff If you are a service member or veteran who was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss between Sept. 11, 2001, and September 30, 2009, you are eligible for Stop Loss Special Pay. Be sure to send in your claim form before the Oct. 21 deadline; the average benefit is $3,700. See www.defense.gov/stoploss for more informa...tion. If you know someone who may be eligible, tell a friend!

See More
www.defense.gov
Defense.gov - The official website of the United States Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense, DoD, Defense, Defence, Military


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Could we get a real leader?

BULLY BOY PRESS & CEDRIC'S BIG MIX -- THE KOOL-AID TABLE

BECAUSE HE'S SUCH A LITTLE GIRL, CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O WENT ON THE VIEW WHERE HE DISHED ABOUT SUCH TOPICS AS HIS DAUGHTERS AND HIS SIGNIFICANT OTHER.

LIKE A LITTLE GIRL, HE AVOIDED ALL TOUGH TOPICS AND GIGGLED AND PREENED.

MEANWHILE DAY 101 OF THE GULF DISASTER AND HE'S DONE NOTHING.

BUT DIDN'T HIS LIP GLOSS LOOK GREAT ON THE VIEW?

YOU GO, GIRLFRIEND! YOU ACHE JUST A LITTLE GIRL!


FROM THE TCI WIRE:

"The US Dept of Veterans Affairs is the second largest agency in our system of government," declared US House Rep Bob Filner this morning as he called to order the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, "and each year, they are authorized billions of dollars to care for our nation's veterans. Miscellaneous obligations are used by the VA to obligate funds in circumstances where the amount to be spent is uncertain. They are used to reduce administrative workload and to facilitate payment for contracted goods and services when quantities and delivery dates are unknown." Bob Fliner is the Chair of the Committee and Steve Buyer is the Ranking Member. In his opening remarks, Buyer noted that, "The hearing today is very timely in light of the VA's announcement to our offices that they plan to halt the development of what the Chairman just talked about -- our integrated financial accounting system [pilot program entitled Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise]. I, franky, was surprised the VA would take this step with the supposed blessing of OMB but without any plan for the real future other than to limp along. That's what surprised me the most." The main issue for the hearing was the VA's inability to track millions of dollars filed under "miscellaneous."
The Committee heard from three panels. The first was made up of the GAO's Susan Ragland, the second by the VA's Edward Murry and the third by the VA's Jan Frye. The first two witnesses were accompanied by others, Ragland was accompanied by the GAO's Glenn Slocum. After Ragland finished her opening statement, she was asked a question.
Chair Bob Filner: If you had to give a grade between your initial report and now, what would you give?
Susan Ragland: Oh.
Chair Bob Filner: I'm a teacher, so.
Susan Ragland: Oh, I guess I'd say somewhere between a C+ or a B-. Somewhere in there.
Chair Bob Filner: Sounded like an F to me, but what do I know?
And we're opening with that because it's a call everyone can follow -- whether they agree with it or not (I agree with the call). We're jumping ahead to US House Rep Cliff Stearns who picked up on the grade later in the hearing.
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: Ms. Ragland, you gave this exercise a B-. Now the report in 2008 was roughly 5.7 billion miscellaneous obligations that were unable to be identified as how they were spent and now it's 12 billion in 2009. I mean, so it looks like it's jumped twice. So the problem has gotten . . .
Susan Ragland: Twice as big.
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: Twice as big. And wouldn't that mean that they flunked? I mean, wouldn't you have to be honest to yourself and say, "It appears to me that nothing's been done"? I mean if this had, if you couldn't get $6 billion -- find out where it was spent in 2008 and now it's 12, following this extrapolation, it will be 24, 25 billion when you come back here again with your GAO report. At what point don't you think that there -- How can you say that they're passing?
Susan Ragland: Well you're making a really good point and really the thinking that I had behind my response was that I do think VA is making efforts in these areas and so --
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: So they get a B- because they're making efforts when it doubles?
Susan Ragland: Well.
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: Would you -- would you have a student that --
Susan Ragland: They do-they do have the policies and procedures in place and they are taking actions to monitor them and that's the information that we got from the MQAS [Management Quality Assurance Service] service, that they are doing inspections and finding these things which is what we would look for any agency. That they are looking --
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: I, I understand you're being diplomatic. In reading the summary in your report, you say there are "serious longstanding deficiencies we identifed that are continuing." So here, 2008, 2009, you say these deficiencies -- serious long-standing deficiencies are continuing and that's not very optimistic to me. And then you went on to say that "serious weaknesses continue to raise questions concerning whether VA management has established the appropriate tone at the top necessary to ensure that these matters receive the full sustained attention." So in both the statements I gave you, it appears that the management's not connecting, that you've identified long-standing deficiencies that continue and these serious weaknesses raise further questions. So I think you've done your job. I think you have to be woman enough to say these folks are flunking and you've got to be a little bit more draconian in your statement. Now let me ask you this question, you mention in your report they have outdated systems. Does the VA have the technilogical capabilities to do this? What do you mean by outdated systems?
Susan Ragland: You can take that.
Glenn Slocum: There are -- VA systems sometimes revert to manual processes in order to produce its year-end finan --
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: So they haven't used computers? They haven't use the internet?
Glenn Slocum: No-no, they do have -- they do have all that. But some of the reconciliations that they may need to do at year-end, uh, they have a MinX system which is used to, uhm, produce their year-end statements.
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: It's done manually then?
Glenn Slocum: It's not manually -- it's not totally manually. But there are, uh, reconciliations that take place that, in a better world, would be more automated. And it effects their inventory systems at pharmacies and that's what we're talking about.
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: In 2008, did you bring that to their attention with the same statement that they had outdated systems?
Glenn Slocum: Well -- well there are two reports. You know, there's one with miscellaneous obligation and I think that's the one that Ms. Ragland gave them a B- on. The other report dealt with the financial report deficiencies and those are the problems that have been around since 2000 or longer. And maybe there would be uh -- [looks at Ragland] maybe you would give them a lower grade on that? I'm not sure.
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: Okay, well then the statement says "a lack of sufficient personnel." Uhm, have you found that the personnel is one of the serious problems that they have? Personnel that either don't have the appropriate knowledge or skills or they just don't have the personnel?
Susan Ragland: That's been one of the independent public auditors' findings in the financial reports. And that's been over-over years.
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: Was that true in 2008? That same conclusion?
Susan Ragland: I'm not positive, I believe so.
US House Rep Jerry McNerney noted that fraud seemed very likely in the conditions Ragland described in her opening remarks (at "a level that would be scandalous") and voiced the belief that they should ''bring that to light before the press does, before outside activities do." McNerney also noted that the VA's plan for solving the problems, "those seem a little bit far off" (2011 and 2012). Ragland noted that announcements by the VA in 2008 of deadlines to be met have not been kept by the VA and have been extended.
US House Rep David Roe: I would think that when you have a -- Obviously $12 billion is a lot of money and it's a lot to look after, but there should be a plan that when this isn't implemented and you don't find it, someone ought to be held accountable and-and-and heads ought to roll. And clearly what Congressman Buyer said in the private sector [you get fired], that's clearly what happens. People get fired.
Susan Ragland: Yeah.
US House Rep David Roe: Is that what happens here? Or do we just don't do anything or what do we do?
Susan Ragland: Uh, I don't know if that --
Glenn Slocum: I would just say that OMB Circular A-50 addresses this point. You know, one of the things it talks about is holding people accountable for the remediation of these problems. But we have not looked at the extent to which that's actually taken place. It's part of a monitoring mechanism that should be there. But we haven't looked at that.
US House Rep David Roe: And I think -- and I agree with Congressman McNerney, my colleague, is that it reflects poorly on the VA which they don't want to be -- I mean, I understand that they want to do a good job -- and this Committee if we allow that to happen and if we come back a year or two years from now and the same thing's going on, what happens? Is there any corrective action that can be taken in your recommendation, Ms. Ragland.
Susan Ragland: I think that the only thing that we have is to come back to you all and-and point that out. That's-that's our role. Yeah.
If it reads like the Committee had a consenus building, you're not mistaken. US House Rep Ann Kirkpatrick would note, "And Mr. Chairman, I share the sentiment of the other members of this Committee, that this is a very serious problem that we really need to stay on top of." Following that the Ranking Member would weigh in on a pattern, "I mean, right now, you could look back and the last three or four [VA] Secretaries -- I mean, they have, since 2000, increased these directives without execution." He also wondered that "the VA's own audits showed a continued disregard for your recommendations."
Welcoming the second panel, Chair Bob Filner offered a warning: "I would not underestimate the anger that my colleagues feel on this on both sides of the aisle." And for the second panel, refer to Kat who is reporting on that at her site tonight.

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"THIS JUST IN! SOLD TO WHOM!!!!"
"If he was selling, who was buying"

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

If he was selling, who was buying

BULLY BOY PRESS & CEDRIC'S BIG MIX -- THE KOOL-AID TABLE

IN CHICAGO, ONE TIME GOVERNOR ROD BLAGOJEVICH IS ON TRIAL FOR SUPPOSEDLY ATTEMPTING TO SELL A SENATE SEAT.

TO WHOM?

THAT'S THE QUESTION THE PROSECUTION HAS NEVER ESTABLISHED.

IT'S A BIT LIKE BUSTING A HOOKER BUT LETTING THE JOHN WALK.

BLAGOJEVICH'S ATTORNEY YESTERDAY DECLARED THAT THERE WERE NEGOTIATIONS OVER WHO MIGHT BE THE NEXT SENATOR FROM ILLINOIS -- NEGOTIATIONS, NOT A TAG SALE -- AND THAT THESE WERE DONE WITH WHITE HOUSE FIGURES SUCH AS RAHM EMANUEL AND VALERIE JARRETT.

SHOULD BLAGOJEVICH BE CONVICTED SOMEONE'S GOING TO HAVE TO ANSWER WHERE THE OTHER HALF OF THE DEAL IS BECAUSE BLAGOJEVICH CERTAINLY COULDN'T HAVE NEGOTIATED AND/OR SOLD WITH HIMSELF.

FROM THE TCI WIRE:

The political stalemate has consequences. Kari Lyndersen (In These Times) reported yesterday, "Last week electricity union offices across Iraq were raided under a July 20 decree from the Minister of Oil and Electricity, Hussain al-Shahristani, which banned trade unions in the energy sector and threatened serious legal action against union activity." While that's appalling by any standard, it should be noted that Hussain al-Shahristani is NOT the Minister of Electricity. Karim Wahid was the Minister of Electricity until he resigned June 21st. By June 25th, Hussain al-Shahristani was the acting electricity minister though the press reports were leaving out "acting." Reality, he has NO power. It's not just that Nouri's ass should have already been out of the prime ministership, it's that al-Shahristani has not been approved for that post. He is the Minster of Oil -- a Western puppet in that position, but not enough of one that he got to become the Prime Minister as 2004 rumors swore he would be. But he was approved for that post.
Yes, we're all aware Nouri al-Maliki thinks he is God. But delusions aside, he can only nominate cabinet positions. Check the Constitution -- I know no one bothers to, but laws are on the books for a reason. Nouri can name anyone to the Council of Ministers but they don't have that position and title unless and until the Parliament approves the person. The Parliament has never approved Hussain al-Shahristani to be the Minister of Electricity. For those who have forgotten, the Parliament has only met once and for less than 20 minutes. No, they did not approve al-Shahristani for that post. Let's repeat, Karim Wahid was the Minister of Electricity until he resigned June 21st. And the Parliament met once and only once when? June 14th. Even if they'd wanted to approve al-Shahristani for another post (debatable), they didn't and haven't. He has no powers.
But Nouri's refusing to step down and what has some US government figures concerned is the belief/fear that Nouri is dragging out the process because he thinks that it will be easier for him to refuse to step down after the US drawdown. Kari Lyndersen adds, "International labor groups are calling the decree part of a systematic attack on unions in Iraq in recent years. US Labor Against the War (USLAW) says the 'anti-union decree is the latest in an escalating series of measures designed to incapacitate and destroy the Iraqi labor movement'." And this is why you don't let things drag out. The US, under Bush, should never have gone along with a delay in the 2009 elections. What 2009 elections? That's when they were supposed to take place. Bush went along. Barack came in and went along with further delays. Now all this time later, Nouri's still stalling the political process. And you have his henchmen acting without any legal authority. That's why you don't let it drag on and why, if Barack's too much of a damn wimp, you bring in the United Nations immediately and force all parties to the table to hammer out something and do so quickly. This was nonsense and happened under the US occupation. Happens under the US occupation. US Labor Against the War is asking that people join them in protesting the attempts to destroy the electricity unions:
Police raided and shut down electricity unions across Iraq in mid-July, carrying out an order from the Minister of Electricity that could have been lifted from Saddam Hussein's rule book.

The order prohibits "all trade union activities at the ministry and its departments and sites" and authorizes the police "to close all trade union offices and bases and to take control of unions' assets properties and documents, furniture and computers." [Details below.]

The Iraqi trade union movement is calling on trade union members and labor solidarity activists everywhere to raise their voices in protest.
PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO SEND OIL MINISTER SHIRASTANI AND PRIME MINISTER MALIKI A MESSAGE TO PROTEST THESE VIOLATIONS OF BASIC LABOR RIGHTS THAT ARE THE CORNERSTONE OF ANY TRUE DEMOCRACY.

Hussain al-Shahristani, Oil Minister of Iraq, who was also appointed Electricity Minister, issued a decree that

1. Prohibits all trade union activity and ceases all forms of cooperation and official discussions with the electricity sector unions;

2. Directs management to help police enforce the closure of union offices and confiscation of documents, furniture, computers and anything else present;

3. Orders all enterprises to take immediate legal action against anyone who threatens or uses force or causes any damage to public property under the 2005 anti-terrorism law; and

4. Orders all departments and enterprises to repeal any benefits and privileges union members have gained.

This outrageous action violates all of the norms of internationally recognized labor rights. It escalates a broad attack on unions that has been taking place in Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein that has included:

* Continued enforcement of Saddam's ban on unions in the public sector and public enterprises;

* Freezing union bank accounts and assets;

* Banning union leaders from traveling outside Iraq without prior government approval;

* Transferring union leaders to remote locations far from their homes, families and union members;

* Issuing criminal charges against Oil Union Federation officers alleging they are undermining the Iraqi economy by protesting privatization of oil resources and companies;

* Ignoring the requirement in the Iraqi Constitution calling for enactment of a basic labor rights law;

* Violating ILO Convention 98 on collective bargaining to which Iraq is signatory.

If you click here, US Labor Against the War has made sending e-mails to object very simple.
From war on the unions to other violence . . .
Bombings?
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left four people injured, a Karbala suicide car bombing which claimed the lives of 20 people with another fifty wounded, and a Mosul home bombing which wounded two people. (I think Karbala was yesterday, FYI, but it's billed as today.)
Shootings?
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul home invasion late last night in which 2 women were shot dead and an armed attack on a Mosul checkpoint in which 2 police officers were killed.
In other developments, Catholic News Agency reports a passing, Auxiliary Bishop Andraos Abouna, 67-years-old, died today in an Erbil hospital -- possibly from kidney complications. The Auxiliary Bishop was ordained as a priest June 5, 1966 and had been working in Iraq all that time. The Assyrian Democratic Movement notes, "Mar Andraos is known for defending and fighting for peace between Iraqi factions and has great stance in maintaining the unity of the people of our Chaldean Syriac Assyrian. H.E. Mar Andraos is also known for promoting a unified religious dialogue and strengthening the unity of Iraqis to safeguard and consolidate the national unity and supports the diversity of Iraq." In January 2003, John L. Allen Jr. (National Catholic Reporter) filed a story on the Auxiliary Bishop:
During his Christmas Mass, the pope prayed that humanity will strive "to extinguish the ominous smoldering of a conflict that, with the joint efforts of all, can be avoided." On New Year's Day, he spoke in similar terms. "In dealing with ongoing conflicts and tension growing more threatening, I pray that peaceful ways of settling conflicts be sought after, driven by loyal and constructive cooperation in accordance with the principles of international law," John Paul said.
Few people were probably listening more attentively than Andraos Abouna, the new auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, who was personally consecrated by the pope along with 11 other new bishops on the Feast of the Epiphany, Jan. 6. Abouna will aid Patriarch Raphaƫl I Bidawid of Baghdad in shepherding a community of some 600,000 Iraqi Chaldean Catholics, who may soon find themselves at ground zero of the war John Paul is begging the world to avoid.
[. . .]
"We asked the Holy Father to pray for peace in Baghdad," Abouna said, "and you could see that he was moved. When he speaks about Baghdad, he does so from the heart, because this is the land of Abraham, the first believer in God. For us it is the Holy Land."
Abouna said he also appreciates the letter from the U.S. bishops on Iraq, which he described as a "very, very good statement."
Still, he is a realist about the potential impact of such interventions from religious leaders, given that John Paul opposed the Gulf War in 1991 and it didn't stop the bombs from falling.
"Politicians act in their own interest, often for economic reasons," he said. "They don't so much care what religious leaders say."

Vatican Radio notes his kidney problems two months ago and that yesterday the Auxiliary Bishop was taken to the hospital, yesterday afternoon, that the funeral was expected to be held this evening, that he was born in the village of Bedare/Zakho in 1943, entered the Monastery in 1975 (in Mosul), was ordained in Baghdad June 5, 1966 and had been a parish priest in both Basra (1967 to 1971) and Baghdad (1971 to 1991).

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New bookings!

BULLY BOY PRESS & CEDRIC'S BIG MIX -- THE KOOL-AID TABLE

SOMETIMES, AS CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O WELL KNOWS, A GIRL JUST HAS TO LET HER HAIR DOWN.

WHICH IS WHY BARRY O IS TAKING THE TIRED ACT TO THE VIEW. ONCE AGAIN TO THE VIEW -- BARRY O LAST ESCAPED THERE AFTER HIS 'JERMIAH WRIGHT IS MY FAMILY JUST LIKE MY RACIST WHITE GRANDMA AND I COULD NEVER TURN MY BACK ON JEREMIAH' SPEECH WHEN HE WANTED TO AVOID HARD QUESTIONS.


"WE'LL TALK FASHION," GUSHED BARRY O, "AND FUN STUFF. MAYBE GET A LITTLE NAUGHTY LIKE LAST TIME AND TALK A LITTLE SEX. IT'LL BE FUN. AFTER THAT, I'M TAPING A GUEST SPOT ON ONE LIFE TO LIVE."

FROM THE TCI WIRE:

UN weapons inspector Hans Blix is scheduled to testify to the Inquiry tomorrow. Do you know what would be really embarrassing about the above news if you were a writer in the US? Insisting that Iraq was no longer an issue in England. Ah, poor stupid Amitabh Pal, always the loser, always the fool. In the US, the big news is the latest release of documents from a whistle blowing organization? Which one? The only game in town. Backstory, Monday April 5th, 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 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported last month that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. Last week, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported earlier this month that he 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." Manning has been convicted enough and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Over the weekend at the National Peace Conference, a measure of support for WikiLeaks and for Bradley -- if he is the whistleblower (and the statement notes that he may or may not be) was passed. and signed by Veterans for Peace's Mike Ferner, War Is A Crime's David Swanson and World Can't Wait's Elaine Brower and Debra Sweet -- click here to read the measure at World Can't Wait. Space permitting we'll come back to the Conference later in the e-mail but we also need to cover Lynne Stewart and a few other topics. Sunday, WikiLeaks released more documents, this time on Afghanistan. Newsweek explains:
Two sources familiar with material currently in the hands of Wikileaks, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said on Monday that the next subject to be featured in media revelations based on documents leaked to Wikileaks was likely to be U.S. conduct of the Iraq War. The sources indicated the type of material likely to be the basis of anticipated forthcoming exposes would be similar to the military reports -- many of them from U.S. military units operating in the field -- which began to surface on Monday in reports published by The New York Times, The Guardian newspaper of London and the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel regarding U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and related dealings with authorities in Pakistan.
Due to the sensitivity of the material, the sources declined to discuss any of the still-to-be-revealed documents about Iraq in detail. However, one of the sources characterised the material as describing the involvement of U.S. forces in a "bloodbath."
This isn't the "Afghanistan snapshot" and we're limited on space in this snapshot. For details of what's in the leaked documents, use the links above. Today Julian Assange held a press conference in London and you can stream that via CSpan.
The White House went into damage control yesterday and the whole thing seemed like a throwback to the days of Tricky Dick. In fact, the only thing missing might have been G. Gordon Liddy. Today, he emerges. George Stephanopoulos (ABC News -- link has text and video) interviews him today and he condemns the leak. Of course, these days, his name is Adrian Lamo but a convicted felon who tries to restyle as an uber-patriot will always be a G. Gordon Liddy and can ABC News please explain since when a convicted felon -- with no national security experience, please note, has any standing on this topic? (That's right, he doesn't.) Wait! Convicted felon? Oh, I can't leave it at that. Convicted felon and pervert. If Adrian's going to continue whisper campaign -- and he did it again today to two reporters -- about Bradley Manning (floating various supposed sexual revelations but doing so 'off the record' as Lamo continues his efforts to poison the press against Bradley), then let's be very clear that you don't get much more perverted than Adrian Lamo and, in fact, ABC News should issue a warning to get children out of the room before they ever show Lamo on the TV screens. To 'cover' the WikiLeaks story, little Ezra Klein (Washington Post) links to his cock-knocking buddy Spency Ackerman. If you gave as much verbal head to get ahead as Ezra did, you'd think you'd have gotten further, don't you? Like a male actor sleeping with Joel Schumacher who then pulls strings to get the actor on the cover of Vanity Fair and leaves the world pondering over a decade later how ___ became a so-called 'star,' Ezra's 'fame' (low-watt as it is) is all about the circle-jerk and he was damn lucky that the Columbia School of Journalism has no ethics or morals and refused to police their own. So Ezra hopped in a hot tub with ___ and Ezra became a CJR star, rewarded with lavish public praise and with multiple links. (We're not implying sex, Ezra's too frightening to trade on sex.) That's how a whore becomes a name -- even when it's just such a tiny name. And that whoring is what Ezra does today at the Washington Post whose reputation he trashes in order to do a reach-around on his boy pal Spency. Remember that -- at the Washington Post now, it's not about reporting. It's about lying to readers so that you can link to your friends who will then link back to you and Ezra just knows no one will ever be the wiser. Considering that Ezra's Journolist was used to map out strategies and narratives, the Washington Post should not be allowing him to link to his circle jerk buds. But Spency has to pay the bills! And he's new to Wired! And despite public statements, Wired management is now nervous about Spencer due to the Journolist. See, whether or not the strategy was implemented (it appears to have been implemented), Spencer's suggesting that the way to shut down coverage of a story was to scream "RACIST!" at people doesn't play well. And Ezra decision to link-f**k Spency? Even if doing so risks the repuation of the Washington Post which, for the record, is not in the business of stifling debate by screaming "RACIST!" at those it disagrees with. [Late to the party on Journolist? See Hillary Is 44's "Hillary Was Smeared First - DailyCaller, Race-baiting JournoList, And DailyKos DailyKooks - The Big Media/Big Blog Cartel," "'Call Them Racists' - The New Racism And The Political Importance of JournoList JournoGate; JournoLister Ben Smith's Delusions; And Scooter Libby" and "The Barack Obama Campaign Started "Call Them Racist" - JournoList Followed - And A Shocking 'Hooray For Tucker Carlson'!") and this week's edition of Third.
Off topic but needed, congratulations to Mauro Paim. The Brazilian blogger just celebreated his first anniversary of blogging. He blogs at Reality Observer and addresses LGBT issues worldwide. If more people took those issues as seriously as Mauro does, homophobia would vanish in the blink of an eye. Congratulations to him on his anniversary and on all the strong work he does. Back to Iraq, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan also needs congratulations, she has a new grandson, Cohen Andrew Sheehan who was born Saturday (Jade and Andrew Sheehan are the parents). Back to the peace conference. David Swanson writes about it at his site -- this is noted after checking with Rebecca, Cedric and Ann (for any community members wondering):
While Marcy [Winograd] provided the progressive candidate's view of the media, Wendell Potter gave that of a former corporate hack and a current whistleblower, Cohen that of a former television talking head and current media critic and university professor, and the always brilliant John Nichols laid out in concise detail the documented dying of the old media and the lack of any birth, as of yet, of a new media that can replace it. Here's Cohen:

Also on Saturday, we shared notes in regional groupings, and I took part in the Southern one, where energy was high and planning eager. Southern progressives are
on the move and planning a regional conference, possibly in Atlanta.

Sunday morning, we split up along other lines, joining one or more of PDA's six Issue Organizing Teams:
• End War and Occupation IOT: Norman Solomon and Steve Carlson, table leaders
• Healthcare for All/Single-payer IOT: Donna Smith and Chuck Pennacchio, table leaders
• Stop Global Warming/Environmental IOT: Laura Bonham, table leader
• Accountability and Justice IOT: Susan Harman and David Swanson, table leaders
• Amend to Suspend Action Group (opposing corporate personhood): Dave Keeler, table leader
• Immigration Reform Action Group: Dan O'Neal, table leader

PDA is a major participant in immigrant rights struggles in Arizona and wants everyone to watch for big actions there on Thursday, July 29th. Through the combination of two groups into a single meeting, and by running down the hall, I was able to take part in three of the meetings. Each group laid plans for the coming months, assigned roles, and jumped to work, including taking on this week's expected House vote on war escalation funding. At the same time, some of PDA's key anti-war leaders were attending and playing a leading role in a huge and hugely successful
national peace conference in Albany, NY. The peace movement is joining forces with the labor and civil rights movements this fall, and PDA is in the thick of that. George Korn from Rainbow PUSH was at the PDA Conference planning a campaign for Jobs, Justice, and Peace with the United Auto Workers and others.
If those links don't work, go to his site. In the e-mail they were sent in, they're open (not closed) tags and I've had to log on to edit them myself as we try to slim down the snapshot which is way too long. But we're including Lynne. David has a note in his piece about PDA and I'm not trying to spit on him by noting that I don't believe the answer comes from new members of Congress. They've tried that strategy over and over. After giving his word Dennis Kucinich -- the PDA poster boy -- still caved and stuck America with that horrid ObamaCare -- which is not universal, single-payer and doesn't have the weak-ass public option that little Harry Reid wanted to tell Nutroots Nation this weekend they might get if they worked really hard. Golly, Harry weren't you the one elected, aren't you the member of the Senate, aren't you the Majority Leader, shouldn't your candy ass be working instead of tossing your responsibilites onto the voters? Nutroots got covered, Swanson's gathering didn't. For that reason, we're including and if we had more space, we'd include more of it. But as repeatedly noted, I do not think that we do the same thing over and over. (And if Marcy Winograd ever actually wants to win a seat in Congress, someone might try walking her through that. She could have won this year but she and her campaign did everything wrong. To defeat Jane Harman, Marcy needs to grasp, would mean losing a lot of pork Jane can provide via her seniority. Marcy needs to make clear to the voters how Marcy in Congress means money for the district. That was among the campaign's biggest mistakes. If she runs in 2012, she and her campaign need to rectify that.)
Now for Lynne. Michael Steven Smith writes "The Sentencing of Lynne Stewart" at the Center for Constitutional Rights:

Lynne Stewart is a friend. She used to practice law in New York City. I still do. I was in the courtroom with my wife Debby the afternoon of July 19th for her re-sentencing. Judge John Koeltl buried her alive.

We should have seen it coming when he told her to take all the time she needed at the start when she spoke before the sentence was read. It didn't matter what she said. He had already written his decision, which he read out loud to a courtroom packed with supporters. It was well crafted. Bulletproof on appeal. He is smart and cautious.

After about an hour into his pronouncement, he came to the buried alive part. He prefaced it by citing the unprecedented 400 letters of support people had sent him, all of which he said he read. He noted Lynne's three decades of service to the poor and the outcast. He stressed that she is a seventy-year-old breast cancer survivor with high blood pressure and other serious health problems. And then he laid it on her: 120 months.

Everyone in the courthouse divided 120 by 12. He had given her a death sentence, we all thought. She'll never get out. He almost quadrupled the 28 month sentence he had originally pronounced. She had told him that 28 months was a horizon, that she had hope. But no more.

Lynne's granddaughter gasped. Then started sobbing. She kept crying even as Judge John Koeltl kept reading. And reading. And reading. It was awful. The sentence was pitiless and cruel. How to understand it?

Lynne's lawyer Jill Shellow Levine rose after the judge finished. She asked him why. He was candid. He was told to do it by his supervisors, the judges on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This court is an institution of the elite. It is considered the second highest court in America next to the Supreme Court because it presides over the financial center of the empire, not its capital, that is in D.C., but its real capital. This court makes policy and Lynne Stewart was to be made an example of in "the war against terrorism" just as a half a century before, in the same court, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were condemned to death in the war against communism, told that they had caused the deaths of 50,000 U.S. soldiers in the Korean War, and found guilty of the ridiculous charge of "stealing the secret" of the atomic bomb, when there was no secret, it was only a matter of technology. The sentencing Judge Kaufman knew they would leave behind two orphan children, Robert and Michael, ages six and three.

There's more,
use the link. Michael Smith is a co-host -- with Michael Ratner and Heidi Boghosian -- of Law & Disorder (airs on WBAI Mondays and elsewhere around the country throughout the week) which this week speaks with Vinie Burrows about the Lynne Stewart case. Ralph Poynter is Lynne's husband. He made the following statement last week.

Ralph Poynter: Just a brief statement on Lynne Stewart's sentencing. It's perjury, thy name is the United States government. The president-elect begins lying when announcing candidacy only to reneg on every promise. War, health care, Social Security, economy, etc. To excuse the president, it is quoted, he must perjure him or herself to become president. It is an understood and unstated American way, accepted perjury. When taking the oath of office, the president swears to uphold the Constitution and then proceeds to support the dismantling of the Constitution: The Patriot Act, hypocritical perjury. In office, the president employs signing -- that is, after signing a bill, signing a statement saying he will not abide by the bill. Pre-meditated perjury. There's more perjury gone on in this administration in these few years than all of the Bush administration. When Lynne Stewart was attacked by the government for making a press release on the Sheik's behalf it was revealed that other attorneys had made press releases as she did. The New York federal prosecutor said they didn't know about them. The national federal prosecutor said other lawyers should be charged and arrested. The Second Circuit of Appeals said it was selective prosecution but they would not deal with it and that Lynne Stewart should be further prosecuted and given a harsher sentence. Prosecutorial perjury. Is there anyone on the planet who does not know that the landmark [stage?] was hatched and planned for by the U.S. government with an Egyptian operative named Emad Salem? Is there anyone on this planet who does not know that the F.B.I. directed every step of the plot while promising unemployed, hapless hangers on money to be involved this so-called plot? It was staged, financed and filmed by the covert operative Emad Salem with constant oversight by the F.B.I. They desired to credit the blind Sheik. The F.B.I. charged the Sheik for not reporting the F.B.I. operative to the F.B.I. The blind Sheik merely said, "I don't think this would be good for Islam and go pick another target" -- never acquiesing to a plan of Emad Salem's. National security perjury. The judge first rejected this case against Lynne Stewart as being vague. The judge reversed himself and allowed the case to proceed. The judge allowed Osama bin Laden in the case while saying it had only to do with the state of mind of a third defendant. He allowed the massacre of Luxor in the case -- I guess for dramatic effect -- although having nothing to do with the case. Finally, I want to talk about the perjury on the part of the part of the so-called progressive people who leap to embrace any and every petty accusation made about Lynne Stewart. She is arrogant. She would like to think she would support and defend the First Amendment, speech. She would like to think she would defend the right for people to have an attorney. She is not remorseful. And have people forgotten, have we forgotten bravery, courage, Patrick Henry, John Brown, Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer? Have we forgotten the principles of Lynne Stewart -- the principles that she stood by for 50 years? Have we forgotten who we claim to be? Progressive people, whose side are we on, brothers and sisters? Let us remember John Paul Jones: We have not yet begun to fight. Join us. Join Lynne. Join the struggle, the view of America that is inclusive and the view that we think America should have and should become.

Ruth transcribed that. And, as she noted, WBAI's Taking Aim this Tuesday (5:00 p.m. EST) is planning on using the full hour to discuss the case of Lynne Stewart (and Ralph's comment can be heard on last week's Taking Aim, already archived).



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"And the war drags on . . ."
"Continued violence, continued stalemate"
"The fallen"
  • Truest statement of the week
  • Truest statement of the week II
  • A note to our readers
  • Editorial: Change you can masturbate to
  • TV: Everybody is a spy
  • Serving under Richard Nixon, Chris Hayes (Ava and C.I.)
  • Conason plays con man
  • Andrew Sullivan misses his own scoop
  • The Whore List
  • Ty's Corner
  • Lynne Stewart
  • Highlights
    "Stop talking about them!"
    "THIS JUST IN! LEAVE THE LITTLE GIRLS ALONE!"