Friday, March 09, 2012

Hopium is an addiction





In 2009 and 2010, US House Rep John Hall was the Chair of the House Veterans Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and memorial Affairs. With others on the Subcommittee, including former US House Rep Steve Buyer, they raised many important issues. We'll drop back to September 24, 2009 to note one example:
During the first panel, US House Rep Steve Buyer opened with a visual display showing various cemeteries. Normandy American Cemetery, Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. These were "beautiful" and up to standard. He then went to a national cemetery run by the Department of the Interior, Andersonville National Cemetery. Pointing to the dingy, dirty headstones, "This should not matter that this is the marker of someone who died in the Civil War. It shouldn't matter. It shouldn't matter if it was someone who died in the Revolution or someone who died that's interned in Mexico City." He then "So when you said in your testimony that you gently, finely clean the markers, well that's going to take you a lot of time. This is not a standard for which we should have in America. I think Mr. Cleland, if you saw that in one of yours, you would just freak out." Buyer explained that he complained about the weeds and the result was they pulled out everything, including the grass.
If you can't take the heat and embarrassment from the shoddy work noted above, what do you do? Maybe you do like the National Park Service did too and skip a Congressional hearing. The Subcommittee Chair noted that they were invited but they decided they wouldn't attend today. The first panel was made up of government officials who were willing to attend, the Veteran Affairs Dept's Steven Muro (Under Secretary for the National Cemetery Administration), the Pentagon's Kathryn Condon (Executive Director of Army and National Cemeteries Program) and the American Battle Monuments Commissions' Deputy Secretary Raymond Wollman.
In the 2010 mid-terms, control of the House flipped to the Republicans and some House members chose not to seek re-election and others did not win their re-election races (that applies to Buyer and Hall). US House Rep Jon Runyan is now the Chair of the Subcommittee and Jerry McNerney is the Ranking Member.
Chair Jon Runyan: We are here today to examine the current state of our final resting place for our nation's heroes. These cemeteries and monuments span across our country and the entire world: from my own District in New Jersey with Beverly National Cemetery; to across the Atlantic in Normandy, France; or across the Pacific with Clarke Veterans Cemetery in the Philipines. Some of these cemeteries instantly bring to mind the triumph of courage in conflicts fought around the globe for liberty and freedom. Others hold memories of bravery now known only to God and those who died on the field of battle. Others hold memories of bravery now known only to God and those who died on the field of battle. Yet each one of these national shrines has this in common: They are all honored tributes to our service men and women now resting in peace.
He would go on to explain that audits reveal more than "240 mismarked or unmarked graves and 8 veterans or their loved ones buried in the wrong place. Again, this was not a failing of just one national cemetery, but at 13 NCA cemeteries nationwide. Ladies and gentlemen, there is a pattern here and I find it totally unacceptable."
The following exchange was typical of the responses offered in the hearing.
Chair Jon Runyan: I want to start with Under Secretary Muro. Currently NCA is performing 39 raise and realignment projects. Could you discuss what is being done to make sure the problems related to the prior raise and realignment projects are not repeated?
Steven Muro: Thank you for the question, sir. The first thing we've done is ensure that the headstones are not taken from the grave sight. So they're maintained on the grave sight. The second thing is we're requiring the COR -- which is the Contracting Officer's Representative at the site -- to do a daily check at the end of the day at the site before they leave to ensure that the headstones are on the correct grave sight.
Chair Jon Runyan: Were you able to identify all of the contractors who were involved in all of the previous raise and realignment projects where the errors occurred that actually uncovered and started this national audit.
Steven Muro: Yes, we were able to uncover the contractors that had done the work. Some of them had done multiple cemeteries and we didn't have an issue at other cemeteries but we were able to identify them.
Chair Jon Runyan: That -- And what are you doing to ensure that none of these -- none of these contractors involved during the initial errors are involved in the future raise and realignments? And are you going to reach out to the same ones or do we have to make sure that obviously we have the system of checks and balances and that in there? Because, I mean, rewarding bad behavior sometimes becomes, unfortunately, a bad pattern around here.
Steven Muro: Two things we've done. Some of them didn't rebid other contracts. But the ones that have? We have been watching them at the other cemeteries where they didn't have problems. Plus, if they have a site now, we're making sure that they're doing it --
Chair Jon Runyan: So you're still -- you're still offering them?
Steven Muro: Unfortunately, if they did an error and we didn't catch it, it became our responsibility once they left and we signed off on it. So that's where we're holding our employees accountable for that issue.
Chair Jon Runyan: But you're still offering the same contractors --
Steven Muro: Actually, most of the contractors that did the first rounds aren't in the business anymore. A lot of them couldn't keep up with the standard that we set and have not rebid their contracts.
Chair Jon Runyan: What is the process of accountabily once personnel are identified who directly led to some of the failings uncovered by the national audit?
Steven Muro: Whenever -- Whenever an aerror is found at the national cemeteries, it's reported up through the chain and then we -- we double check to make sure everything they think they found, we do ask differet questions to verify. Then when we are sure that it is an error, we make sure we advise Congress of the error and this committee. And we also work with the families, we contact the families -- where there are families available -- and we talk to the families. If it's just the headstone, once we move it -- We advise them before we move it and after we've moved it that it's been corrected. And then if it's cremated remains or a body that needs to be relocated -- the eight that we did, we contact the family and we have a funeral director there. If the family wishes us to use the original funeral director there -- if they're still in business we do. Otherwise we hire a local one from the area.
Chair Jon Runyan: But to the personal accountability, there's nothing being done there?
Steven Muro: Yes, there is. We're holding those employees there are still employed there accountable for the error and for not catching the error.
Chair Jon Runyan: You have any examples of that?
Steven Muro: We're in the process of doing the investigation to take the appropriate adminstrative action on those employees.
If you're not feeling like accountability is taking place, you're not alone. Runyan's expressions throughout were often of disbelief. And what of Ranking Member Jerry McNerney? He noted that this was a follow up to the September 24, 2009 hearing and he would also note that "the value of the current $300 burial allowance and $300 plot allowance for qualifying veterans has diminished as funeral and burial costs have increased -- negatively affecting the survivors left behind."
He is correct. However, if you go back to our snapshot of that Septemeber 24, 2009 hearing, one of the first things you'll find is this: "Subcommittee Chair Hall also noted that the VA's $300 for a funeral plot and $300 for burial does not begin to cover the costs."
This was known in 2009. It's three years later. Why has this not been addressed?
One new detail that did come up was when the Department of Defense's Kathyrn Condon informed the Subcommittee that the average wait time is 98 days for the burial of a veteran not killed in action. 98 days seems like a very long time.
Back in 2009, then public editor of the New York Times Clark Hoyt weighed in on the issue of anonymous sources. He noted that the paper's "policy says anonymous sources should be used only as 'a last resort when the story is of compelling public interest and the information is not available any other way'." Does Foreign Policy not have a policy on anonymous sourcing?
"This is tough enough without paid advocates making it worse" is what Josh Rogin presents "one official" in the government telling him. Are there any standards at Foreign Policy. Is Josh Rogin just allowed write any damn thing? He's now, yet again, attacking Camp Ashraf and this time he's gong after their public supporters. And the poor little White House and State Dept are just so so so worn down by these awful, awful advocates.
Not only was the quote unneeded, not only did it violate the basic policies (in journalism) on anonymous sourcing, it also part of yet another catty attack on Camp Ashraf from someone who's been allowed to launch many already.
Here's another reality for Josh Rogin: If the United Nations is monitoring Camp Liberty -- where some residents of Camp Ashraf are being relocated -- then you talk to the UN to confirm that.
Unless you're a an idiot, you do not run with this, "While there are some legitimate problems at the camp, the ["Obama administration"] official admitted, the U.N. has been monitoring Camp Liberty's water sewage, and food systems on a daily basis and the condtions are better than the MEK is portraying." How the hell is that sourcing?
Did Josh ever get his work fact checked? Or did the little punk cry and piss his briefs to get his way with every editor he ever had? The White House is not monitoring by that statement; therefore, the White House cannot tell you what is or isn't going on. If you want to talk -- on the record or off -- about what the UN has found, you go to a UN source. This is basic. And what Josh has offered is bulls**t.
If you doubt it, this section of his 'report' is a character attack and you don't allow anonymous officials to launch character attacks:
"The Americans who ought to know better and claim to be on the side of good solutions are really damaging it. Either they are too lazy or too arrogant to actually do their homework. They don't spend the time to learn facts, they just pop off. They accept the MEK line without question and then they posture," the official said. "We have a plan that has a chance to work and the Iraqis want it to work. The MEK ... it's not clear. And in this situation they are being badly advised by the people whose names appear in these ads."
I know Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, Patrick Kennedy, Ed Rendell, John Lewis and Evan Bayh. (I know Lee Hamilton but I loath him.) They're among the public advocates for Camp Ashraf residents to be treated fairly.
It's strange because I spoke to two about this little 'report' from Joshy Posh and, thing is, he didn't try to get a comment from them. He just, like a good little whore, wrote down what the government wanted him to write down -- no questions asked. Whores don't ask questions, they just take your money.
The White House has refused to honor international law. Last week, we called out Hillary for making an idiot of herself and the US terrorist list by stating that whether or not Camp Ashraf residents were taken off that list would depend upon how they 'behaved' as the Iraqi government relocated them -- the same government that's already twice attacked them and -- as the United Nations publicly acknowledges -- the same government that's killed at least 49 Camp Ashraf residents.
No, that's not how you determine terorrism. If Josh Rogin weren't such a little whore, he'd be writing about that, he'd be pursuing that. Instead, he launches another attack on a group of people who are defenseless. And, at some point, the argument's going to be made -- and I could do it right now and do it in terms of the law -- that Camp Ashraf residents aren't on the terrorist list. The MEK is. The MEK is on it for activites that don't involve Camp Ashraf. When that argument gets made, the White House has even less to hide behind.
Somehow the State Dept refusing to comply with a court order from 2010 to conduct and complete a review of the status of the MEK isn't a concern to a whore like Josh Rogin. It's not even worth mentioning to him.
Camp Ashraf residents are protected under international law, that's reality. Josh Rogin doesn't have to like them, doesn't have to support whatever it is they support. All he has to do is recognize the law. Once he does that he can respect or reject the law. But there is nothing in his mental midget ditherings to ever imply, infer or openly suggest that the idiot knows the first thing he's writing about. But he's so very good at working in every point the White House wants made.
Here's what so damn embarrassing about Josh Posh's latest crap-fest, the White House is complaining that citizens -- that's what Howard Dean and company are -- are being active in politics. They're using their First Amendment rights. And that's what has the White House bitching, whining and moaning. They need to grow the hell up. In a democracy, what they're facing right now should happen on every issue and if they hadn't dragged their feet on this issue, maybe they wouldn't be fighting such a strong push now.
It's hard to tell when Josh is lying because he's so damn stupid. But at one point, when he's listing the 'paid advocates' and their activities, he goes off about sitting in on Congressional hearings. Those aren't paid advocates and that didn't start this year, it didn't start last year. It's been going on forever and maybe if Josh Rogin didn't take swallow everything the White House sticks in his mouth, he'd know that. Then again, maybe not. As I said, it's always had to tell when he's lying or when he's just showing how very stupid he is.
I've noted this before, I'll note it again before someone wonders, I have not received any money from Camp Ashraf or MEK or anything to do with them. I don't take money for things like that. I don't take money period. I don't take money for speaking -- I pay my own travel, I pay my own lodging. Nor do I speak on behalf of Camp Ashraf. The law is the law and who knew Foreign Policy would decide that international law wasn't to be respected?

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