Saturday, March 29, 2014

Did you love The Parallax View?

I did.  That film starred Warren Beatty with Paula Prentiss.  It was a film where the two and many others witness an assassination of a candidate like Robert F. Kennedy but he is killed in Seattle.  And then the witnesses start dying off.

Paula is convinced she's next and she pleads with Beatty who dismisses her concerns.

She ends up dead and he uses his journalism training to find out what is going on.

The screenplay for that film was written by Lorenzo Semple Jr. who also wrote the script for the Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway film The Three Days of the Condor.

Well Mr. Semple died yesterday.  May he rest in peace.

The Hollywood Reporter notes his career and includes this:

Semple, who was hired by producer (and eventual Batman narrator) William Dozier to create the superhero show for 20th Century Fox Television and ABC, said he always envisioned the series as a comedy, albeit one played with a straight face.

Semple wrote only the first four episodes, but he served as a script or story consultant on every other installment. He also penned the show’s “bible” for the other writers. (One rule: Batman should never break the law, not even to park in a no-parking zone during a crime-fighting emergency.)

Semple came up with the idea for interspersing the show’s fight scenes with exploding and colorful Pow! Zap! and Kapow! graphics; found the Riddler’s riddles in books popular with third-graders; and named every device the Bat-this or the Bat-that. For Robin’s “Holy (Fill in the Blank!),” he riffed off a similar phrase used by an elderly character in the Tom Swift books.

The T.V. show Batman was huge in real time.  And largely because of Semple because what is listed above would be what stood out about the show.

Without Mr. Semple, there never would have been a Michael Keaton Batman or a Christian Bale Batman.

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

Friday, March 28, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the assault on Anbar continues, reaction continues to multiply to Barack Obama's attempt at revisionary Iraq War history, the American Legion has a problem with women veterans, and much more.

We'll start with Congress.  In yesterday's snapshot, we covered some of the Wednesday joint-hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Kat covered the hearing in "When stupid talks to stupid (Congressional hearing)" and Wally covered it in "Rural veterans (Wally)."  The House Committee Chair is Jeff Miller, the Ranking Member is Mike Michaud (Wally covered Michaud in his post).  The Senate Chair is Bernie Sanders.  The Ranking Member is Richard Burr who was not present.  Senator Johnny Isackson acted as Ranking Member.

The testimony came from the Veterans Service Organization The American Legion -- and the testimony was mainly presented by National Commander Daniel Dellinger.  We'll note two more who accompanied him as we note the three questions Chair Bernie Sanders had.

Senate Committee Chair Bernie Sanders:  Right now there are tens of thousands, mostly women, who are taking care of disabled vets -- in some cases 24-7 under great stress and this is just not easy to do.  Some of us would like to see the Caregivers Act that we passed for the 9-11 veterans be extended.  I would like your feelings on that.  Should it be extended to all generations of veterans?

Daniel Dellinger:  We do agree with your assessment on that, Mr. Chairman.  It needs to happen.  Our -- actually our Veterans Rehabilitation Committee Chairman [Ralph] Bozella has been looking into that and I'd like to ask him to give some comments on that.  

Senate Chair Bernie Sanders:  Thank you. Mr. Bozella?

Ralph Bozella:  Thank you, Commander, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman and members.  The Caregivers Act is the three pieces: the primary, the general and the family.  And, as you stated, Mr. Chairman, the current way that it works is that with this new generation The Caregiver Act of the OIF and OEF is where the lion share of the funding is going.  And what we would really like to see is that funding extended to the general and the family portion with the understanding that all veterans who need that care should be given the same financial resources to have that done in their homes.

Senate Committee Chair Bernie Sanders:  Thank you.  Second issue I'd like you to comment on, historically VA has covered dental care for service related problems.  You have an oral problem?  They're there. But for veterans who have dental problems that are not service related, there really is no care.  Do you think we should begin the process through a pilot project or whatever expanding VA health care into the area of dental care. 

Daniel Dellinger:  We definitely agree with the assessment also because as we all know if you -- if you -- dental hygiene directly relates to-to the body which in turn would-would alleviate some infections and also improve the overall health of your body and would also -- should actually decrease the amount of treatments necessary for veterans.  

Senate Committee Chair Bernie Sanders: Finally, one of the last things I want to touch on has been that some 2300 men and women have come home with wounds that make it difficult or impossible for them to have babies and have families. And some of us believe that the VA should help with in vitro fertilization, with the adoption process, to give them the opportunity -- if they want -- to have families. Is that a sensible proposal to you, Mr. Commander?

Daniel Dellinger:  We've been looking at that.  That was part of your bill.  And we actually do not, at this time have a resolution on that.  I'd like to turn this over to our legislative because they've been looking into this since your bill was introduced. 

Brett Reistad:  Senator, Mr. Chairman, indeed this is something that we are taking a look at.  There are a lot of different issues associated with costs and types of procedures that would take place if this were something that the government funded.  Uh, we anticipate that this is something that we will have a stance on at some point in time upon further study by our organization.

Okay, let's get real.  For those late to the party, "your bill," the comment by Daniel Delligner, refers to the last week of February when there was a vote.  Thursday, February 27th, Senator Patty Murray (who is the Senate Budget Committee Chair and was the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair prior to Sanders) went to the floor of the Senate to make an incredibly strong argument for why this was needed.  Late Thursday, as noted in the February 28th snapshot, the vote was shot down in the Senate.

And if you're as stupid as The American Legion hopes you are, that's not just where the story ends, it's also where it begins.

Poor American Legion.  Last week of February and they can't just pull an opinion out of their ass.

That's what they hope you believe.

But thing is, it didn't start there.

When Senator Patty Murray was the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, she introduced  S. 3313, The Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act of 2012 to address this issue.  She explained it at a June 27, 2012 Committee hearing (we covered that hearing in the June 27th and June 28th snapshots). 

And am I mistaken or did Dellinger not tell the same two Committees September 10, 2013 that they'd place a special priority on health care for female veterans (I'm not mistaken, my notes show that he said they had a task force which did research from November 2012 to April 2013 which "focused on women veterans' health care").

So the point here is this has been proposed since 2012.  The American Legion has refused to take a position on the issue.

And let's note something else about Commander Dellinger.

Did MST stop?

Did Military Sexual Trauma vanish?

Last time he gave the American Legion testimony, he could give lip service to the problem.  If it's too much for you, maybe you should step down.  I'm looking at my notes and when Fang Wong was National Commander of the Legion, he could address MST.  It's really strange that Delligner came in so recently with so many promises and none of them are being met.  If the Legion finally has the Women Veterans Outreach Coordinator, Wong noted (September 21, 2011 to the joint-hearing of the Veterans Affairs Committees) that they would be hiring one, the Legion doesn't value the position very much.  I can see endless men and two two or three token women (like the "historian") as I flip through the Legion's webpages of various 'officers' or 'officials' or whatever b.s. titles they give themselves.  I don't see the Women Veterans Outreach Coordinator.  In in those miles and miles of elderly White men occupying one position after another, I don't see anything that young veterans can relate to.

Now I know at one point in 2011, the Legion had Amanda Leigh in that role -- while also making her hold down the post of Assistant Director of Veterans Affairs &  Rehabilitation Division.  And if you search the Legion's website for her, you'll see they haven't noted her since 2012.  So is she gone?  Is the position gone?  Seems like if you have a Women Veterans Outreach Coordinator, you note it at the website.  Like maybe on your "Women Veterans" page.  If the position still exists, how is any outreach taking place when a female veteran visiting the website would never find out about it?

Dellinger's doing a lousy job.  Wednesday, he read a long statement -- which didn't note MST once in the 18 pages -- and then had no little to no knowledge of what he had just read.  It was embarrassing.

I don't have any respect for the current leadership because they show no respect for Congress (or the people's dime) by showing up and thinking they can b.s. their way through a Congressional hearing and (b) they show no respect for women.

To be clear, there are a huge number of issues facing veterans.  Stating publicly that you have no position?  Many do say that -- some because their membership has no position, some because they don't want to get in the middle of a Congressional squabble.  And I can respect that.  I can even respect someone coming out against a needed measure.  But the American Legion didn't just play the 'oh, we don't know' card this week, they've played it since 2012 and you're being played if you buy for a minute that this was a new issue for them.  And it wasn't a 'new' issue in 2010 when the American Legion representative (attorney) for a veteran didn't show up in court to represent them -- do we want to go there, because I can go there.

So let flow the hydrants
And we'll dance in the spray
And we'll wash our dirty laundry
In the alleyway
-- "Put Your Love Out In The Street," written by Carly Simon, first appears on her Playing Possum

The American Legion has a really sad record on the in vitro issue.  And maybe women veterans need to be aware of that when they're looking for a VSO that will serve them.  15 typed pages.  Single-space.  That's how long Dellinger's opening remarks were (he didn't get to read it all but was told it would go into the record).  Yet he never mentioned MST.  Not one damn time.

Women veterans need to know that.

Women veterans need to know that the American Legion is not a friend to them.

And if that truth hurts, Dellinger, maybe it's time the AL started delivering on all the public promises they've made to women veterans in the last three years.

In Iraq, another journalist has been killed.  All Iraq News reports that Wathiq al-Ghadhanfari was shot dead in Mosul.  He had hosted "a TV program over the history of Nineveh at Mosul local TV stations" and he was "also the candidate of Motahidon Alliance chaired by Speaker" of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.

At today's US State Dept press briefing, Marie Harf declared:

 We are deeply concerned about the circumstances surrounding his death and we call on the Government of Iraq to conduct a full investigation into the incident and to hold the perpetrator of this criminal act to account. The killing of any innocent is to be deplored. The murder of a journalist is a particular affront because it strikes at a fundamental pillar of democracy.

Oh, wait, she didn't.  That was her on Monday when a Voice of America/Radio Free Iraq employee was killed.

How did she open today's briefing?  "Hello. Happy Friday, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. I have a few items at the top, and then we will open it up for questions."

Happy Friday, Marie!

Good for you for making it clear to Iraqis that the US government doesn't give a damn about Iraqi reporters or Iraqis at all.

That's really not the message the diplomacy arm of the US government is supposed to send but, hey, Marie was honest.

Why try to pretend that deaths matter in Iraq when the White House so clearly doesn't give a damn.

Hadi al-Mahdi?  Unlike the propagandist shot by the Peshmerga on Saturday, Hadi al-Mahdi was assassinated, he was murdered.  He was a reporter, he was an activist.  He called out Nouri al-Maliki -- something western journalists generally refuse to do.  Hadi had the guts, Hadi had the courage and he was shot dead in his own home.  His killer -- most likely following Nouri's orders -- was never found.  You know outside his apartment?  There are surveillance cameras.  Guess what?

No footage.  For the time of his murder, there is no footage.

But let's pretend this wasn't a government hit.  Let's pretend like something other than Nouri could have both (a) ordered Hadi assassinated and (b) ensured that the cameras were off during the murder so no one could see the assassin arriving or leaving.

The day of Hadi's death?

The US State Dept didn't say one damn word.

Didn't have anything to say the day after either.

And today they didn't care about Wathiq al-Ghadhanfari.

But, "Hello. Happy Friday!" right back at you, Marie Harf.

Doubt Wathiq's family feels it was a happy Friday but that doesn't really matter to the State Dept, now does it?  Doubt the victims of Nouri's shelling of Falluja residential neighborhoods with have a "Happy Friday!" either.  NINA notes 2 civilians are dead and thirty-nine injured from today's shelling.

These are War Crimes but "Happy Friday!," Marie.

In other violence, RT notes fighting in "Anbar province has left at least 30 people dead and injuring 50 others."  National Iraqi News Agency reports Baghdad Operations Command says they killed 2 suspects in Latifya, rebels "blew up a strategic bridge in Hadeetha district western Anbar province" and rebels "blew up a second bridge in Ramadi city center of Anbar province."  Alsumaria reports 1 suicide bomber was shot dead in Mosul, the corpse of 1 truck driver was found near a farm in Dohuk, 3 Baghdad bombings killing 2 people and wounding eight, a Baghdad car bombing left one person injured, a Mousl fight left 3 dead and two injured, and, dropping back to last night, an Iraqi soldier was injured in a roadside bombing near Baiji.

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 905 violent deaths so far this month.

April 30th, Iraq is supposed to hold parliamentary elections.  Tuesday brought the news that the entire board of the Independent High Electoral Commission was submitting their resignations.  Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports the commissioners say there are three possibilities:

1) Parliament passes some form of immunity that would bar the commissioners from being prosecuted for their decisions regarding who can run for office.

2) The election law itself can be modified.

3) The elections can be cancelled. 

All Iraq News reports Iraqiya's Hamed al-Mutleq states the elections must not be postponed.  The leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar al-Hakim has stated Parliament should refuse to accept the resignations.    Harith Hasan (Al-Monitor) reports:

Many were convinced that the government had succeeded in using the judiciary to target its political opponents after the 2011 indictment of former Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and after similar charges were made against a former finance minister, Rafi al-Issawi, in December 2010.
This perception has grown in the weeks leading up to the legislative elections scheduled for next month. The Electoral Judicial Committee has barred participation by a number of would-be candidates known for their harsh opposition toward Maliki. For example, the committee ruled that Issawi is ineligible because he faces arrest warrants stemming from corruption and terrorism charges and because he has refused to appear in court to defend himself. 
Based on a complaint by Hanan al-Fatlawi, a parliamentarian in Maliki’s coalition, the committee also voted to ban a parliamentarian from the Sadrist movement, Jawad al-Shahaili, because he has been accused of embezzlement. Although the same committee overturned decisions prohibiting Sabah al-Saadi and Mithal al-Alusi, both anti-Maliki deputies, from running, it did not change the prevailing belief that most of the time, the judiciary sides with the government. Maliki’s opponents provide another example as evidence — the acquittal of Mishan al-Jubouri on charges of corruption and financial support for terrorism. Jubouri is a former Maliki opponent who recently became his ally.
The problem surrounding qualifying for elections is primarily due to the interpretation of a clause in the electoral law that provides that a candidate must have a record of “good conduct.” This clause has allowed Maliki’s coalition to challenge some potential candidates because they had been accused of crimes.

On Iraq,  Bitch magazine notes:

Award-winning filmmakers Sabine Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum have a passion for telling the stories of trail-blazing women who are often overlooked by historians. Their latest project is Letters from Baghdad, the story of Gertrude Bell who drew the borders of Iraq after World War I and founded the Baghdad Museum of Antiquities which was ransacked in the 2003 American invasion. You can support Letters from Baghdad on the project’s Kickstarter page. [] 

Gertrude Bell and her Iraq work are considered by some to be part of the problem -- a colonialist imposing borders on a foreign land.

Speaking of colonialists, Wednesday, US President Barack Obama made a fool out of himself as he attempted to justify and re-sell the illegal Iraq War.

It is true that the Iraq War was a subject of vigorous debate – not just around the world, but in the United States as well. I happened to oppose our military intervention there. But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory, nor did we grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state could make decisions about its own future.

His lies are still causing a stir.  Let's note some of today's Tweets on the topic.

  • Everything Obama has said on Iraq makes me want to dig my own eyeballs out do you understand

  • Emperor Obama claims a referendum in Crimea worse than illegal war which has killed c1m people. Does he think we're all total cretins?

  • Dear fans, Please explain why Obama would DEFEND our invasion of Iraq. Thanks.

  • Obama Suddenly Defends U.S. Invasion [Annihilation] of Iraq - Mainstream Media Shrug

  • James Schlarmann (Political Garbage Chute) wonders, "Uh, guys?  What kind of high-powered, supermegahardcoreholy***damneds**t halluciongen would I have had to take wherein I would find myself hearing President Barack 'I Am Not George W. Bush' Obama defending the U.S. invasion of Iraq?"  Nebojsa Malic ( asks, "Whatever possessed Mr. Obama to say that 'even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system' when this was clearly not the case, and Bush II’s war was prosecuted without UN approval, without even NATO approval, but by an ad-hoc 'Coalition of the Willing'?"  Sheldon Richman (CounterPunch) calls out the lies:

    [Barack;]We ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state that could make decisions about its own future.

    The war indeed ended in 2011. But let’s not forget that before (most of) the troops left, Obama begged al-Maliki to let U.S. forces stay beyond the deadline set in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Al-Maliki — who didn’t need the United States when he had Iran in his corner — demanded conditions so unacceptable to Obama that most forces were withdrawn as scheduled. (SOFA was signed by Bush, but that doesn’t stop Obama from claiming credit for “ending the war.”) The U.S. government continues to finance, arm, and train al-Maliki’s military, which represses the minority Sunni population.

    Jonathan Cohn (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and Trees) points out,  "Obama also conveniently forgets how he wanted to extend the troop presence, but such negotiations broke down because of Pentagon demands for immunity for such troops--a demand clearly in violation of Iraq's sovereignty." Paul Craig Roberts (Dissident Voice) offers, "Obama recently declared that Washington’s destruction of Iraq–up to one million killed, four million displaced, infrastructure in ruins, sectarian violence exploding, a country in total ruins–is nowhere near as bad as Russia’s acceptance of Crimean self-determination. [. . .]  Who can possibly believe that Obama, whose government is responsible for the deaths of people every day in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, cares a whit about democracy in Ukraine."

     RAZFXPro (News From A Parallel World) offers:

    It’s come to this, an American President taken such leave of his senses that, while a domestic audience is presumably comforted, the rest of the world struggles to find language sufficient to describe his arrogance and flagrant dishonesty.

    America did not seek to ‘work within the international system.’ To the contrary. Denied the support of even most of its traditional allies, the U.S. forged what it clumsily termed a ‘coalition of the willing,’ giving the astonishing destruction we rained on an innocent and essentially defenseless population a rhetorical fig leaf which fooled no one excepting U.S. news commentators and maybe some school children.  

    Jessica Desvarieux files a report for The Real News Network (link is transcript and video).  Excerpt:

    YANAR MOHAMMED, PRESIDENT, ORGANIZATION OF WOMEN'S FREEDOM IN IRAQ: Sovereignty for whom? I think he's talking about the 275 or 300-something parliamentarians who are living inside the International Zone. (And that's the new name for the Green Zone. It's not "Green" anymore.) It's only the sovereignty for those people. And they have the whole wealth of Iraq, while the people are suffering. And there's a number that was produced by the UN reports: almost 38 percent of the Iraqi people are living under the poverty line. Sovereignty for whom?

    DESVARIEUX: Many questions still remain for the people of Iraq after, almost 11 years ago, troops toppled the government of Saddam Hussein and brought to power the Shiite government of al-Maliki.

    Iraqi labor organizer pointed out how the U.S.-backed al-Maliki government is more concerned with amassing wealth and seizing resources, and it aims to crush organized labor movements and remain in power.

    FALAH ALWAN, PRESIDENT, FEDERATION OF WORKERS COUNCILS AND UNIONS: The new government, busy with how to redivide the wealth and how to seize the resources of the society and how to spend mountains of dollars and gold--and this corrupted government, supported directly by the U.S. government.

    The new Iraqi authorities, despite the tragic situation in Iraq, they want to impose a new legislation, which enable them to be in power and [incompr.] in power by controlling the so-called elections and to issue new labor laws to control the workers and prevent them from expressing their demands and their interests, and keeping the old laws of Saddam, which would prevent the workers from organizing themselves, from holding strikes, from negotiating, from calling for their interests. All--we can talk about the tragedies day and night.

    Francis A. Boyle is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law. His books include Foundations of World Order (Duke University Press: 1999) and, most recently, United Ireland, Human Rights and International Law.  Boyle explains:

    In March 2003 the United States launched an illegal and criminal war of aggression against Iraq based on false pretexts, a Nuremberg Crime against Peace. The United States destroyed Iraq as a functioning state and effectively carved-up Iraq de facto into three mini-statelets that are at war with each other today, killing an estimated 1.4 million Iraqis in the process. Suicide bombings in Iraq continue to be a fact of everyday life. By comparison, the Russian annexation of Crimea was almost bloodless.

    Finally, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. We'll close with this from Bacon's  "How Change Happens: The Immigration Uprising" (Truthout):

    This is only the most dramatic action of a wave of activity around the country, in which community and labor activists, and now deportees themselves, have refused to quietly endure increased immigration enforcement.  They are mostly young, deriving much of their inspiration from the Dreamers who forced the administration two years ago to begin providing legal status to some of those who'd otherwise be deported.  These activists refuse to wait for Congress to enact its immigration reform proposals, and in fact many reject them as fatally compromised.
    Two weeks ago hundreds of people inside the Tacoma Detention Center launched a hunger strike against its private operator, Geo Corporation, demanding better conditions and a moratorium on deportations.  Activists, who have held vigils outside the center for years, now gather every day to support those inside.  A week later the strike spread to another Geo facility in Texas.  According to Maru Mora Villapando of Latino Advocacy in Tacoma, in both locations the company has isolated the strikers and in Tacoma threatened to force-feed them.

    Monday, we'll cover more of Nickolay Mladenov's UN Security Council testimony.  I'd hoped we'd continue to that today (and I think I said so in yesterday's snapshot) but there's just not room.

    jessica desvarieux
    the real news network

    Friday, March 28, 2014

    Good for Jimmy Fallon

    Good for Jimmy Fallon.

    He had Joan Rivers on as a guest on The Tonight Show.

    Good for Mr. Fallon.

    Joan Rivers is hilarious in her segment but even if she had been awful, it still would have been the right thing to do.

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

    Thursday, March 27, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, over 300 civilians have been killed in Nouri's assault on Anbar the UN security council is told, the bill that would lower the age of marriage to at least nine (girls only) in Iraq gets attention in the US. the Senate hears from veterans, Barack's nutty remarks on Iraq continue to garner responses and much more.

    Ashley Fantz (CNN) reports Iraq War veteran Senator John Walsh "introduced legislation on Thursday aimed at reducing the number of military veterans who commit suicide."  Today was the National Day of Action to Combat Suicide.  Fantz notes:

    The Suicide Prevention for America's Veterans Act is collaboration between Walsh and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Founded in 2004, IAVA is the first and largest organization for new veterans and their families, with 270,000 members nationwide.

    I'm not sure about the "introduced."  He talked about it, Walsh did, but it's not gotten a "S.XX" number yet. That's because it's not been introduced.   Josh Hicks (Washington Post) more accurately characterizes it as "proposed" -- and notes it was proposed not on the floor of the Senate but while Walsh spoke "at an Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association event on the mall."  Chris Good (ABC News) also gets the wording right, "The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is pushing a bill, the Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act, which Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., plans to introduce. "

    I'm sorry that I don't have the generosity to applaud words.  Show some action, we'll applaud that.  I have no idea why you'd be so stupid to waste press but that's what Walsh has done. He should have proposed it on the Senate floor.  It's going to be hard to get the press to report on that if and when it happens.  Many outlets will take the attitude of, "Well . . . we already reported he introduced it so we really don't have anything to add to the story."  The only reason we're opening with it is because an IAVA friend asked me on Tuesday if we'd do so.  I said yes.  We have many things to cover and if and when Walsh finally gets around to introducing it in Congress, we may or may not have time to note it again but we certainly won't open the snapshot with it.  Walsh wasted his moment.

    Yesterday, the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a joint-hearing.

    Senate Chair Bernie Sanders:  The democratic society that you fought for, that you believe in sometimes doesn't work the way we would like it to work and we see the halls of Congress flooded by well paid activists who represent very powerful special interests.  So I am particularly delighted to see [. . .] What I have learned in the last 15 months since I have had the honor  to Chair the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is that the cost of war and the cost of service is much, much greater than most Americans, I think, appreciate. It is not just the tragedy of the loss of lives. We saw 6700 lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It is not just the men and women who come back from war without legs, without arms, without eyesight, without hearing but equally important it is the hundreds of thousands who among other wars have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan with the invisible wounds of war.  We're talking about some 200,000 men and women just from Iraq and Afghanistan who've come home with Traumatic Brain Injury or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Think about that -- and what it means to their lives. But it's not just their lives.  Think about the wives and the family situations and the children and the mothers and the fathers and the ability to go out and get a job and earn a living.  There was a study done awhile back and I don't know if it was accurate or not but the suggestion was that despite the very significant loss of lives that we saw in Vietnam, even more people died from the war after they came home from Vietnam as a result of suicide or self-destructive activity caused by war.  And let me tell you that today -- today -- so many years later, we have men sleeping out on the streets of America from Vietnam because of that war.  That is the cost of war.  So when we talk about war, it's not only the aircraft carriers and it's not only the planes and the tanks and the guns, it is what happens to people.  And when people tell me -- and sometimes I hear this -- that we just don't have enough money to take care of the men and women who put their lives on the line in those wars then I say, "Don't go to war in the first place."

    The two committees were hearing testimony from The American Legion who were represented by National Commander Daniel Dellinger.

    Daniel Dellinger:  The American Legion remains dedicated to working with VA and Congress to help reduce the claims backlog. While VA has made much progress this year in reducing the number of claims in their inventory, The American Legion is concerned that accuracy is being sacrificed in the interest of simply moving cases along, merely prolonging the problem by shifting the burden to the appeals system, which receives less focus.

    This is the shell game we warned about before it went into effect.  Once it went into effect and the government began lying and stupid reporters began repeating, we called it out again.

    Maybe they're too busy lying for the government or maybe they just lack basic common sense, but reporters refused to recognize what the shift actually would mean or what it meant when it took place.

    We're going to go real slow.  A huge mountain of backlogged claims does not disappear just because you shove them into the appeals process.

    Imagine your electricity bill comes in and it's $250 and you don't have it so you let it go for 30 days.  That may buy you some time but it does not disappear the bill.

    Ramming claims through just to get them out of the backlog does not reduce the claims.

    More importantly, it makes life harder for the veterans.  They didn't get a real hearing on their claim and now they've got to fight through the appeals process.

    It's a shame the leader of The American Legion was unable to address the topic.  Excerpt.

    House Chair Jeff Miller:  Commander, in your testimony you noted some concerns regarding the sacrifice of accuracy of disability claims determination in favor of speediness.  And I think that shifts the burden to the less scrutinized appeals process system and really prolongs the determination process for the veteran.  And I'd like to ask you if you could expand on that just a little bit about what your organization is fighting?

    Daniel Dellinger:   Well, we've heard -- we've heard from VA that their rates -- and I was just at a regional office in Salt Lake City and they put figures out that were 98% accurate We've heard other claims from the VA that the accuracy is in the mid-90s percentile.  But when we go in, we have found different areas where it could be as low as 56%.  We have issues with -- and that's the reason our  ROAR [Regional Office Action Review] team goes out to these regional offices to review those claims and get with those processers to see how they come up with their determinations to improve the system.  But we all know that without the electronic medical record that would make it seemless -- because the majority of the time the backlogs is waiting for the paper copy of the records.  So this is something we really need to improve upon.  And if we can get that system up and running which they've already tried and I understand dates are being set now to-to guarantee that, it would -- it would greatly improve the efficiency and time frame of those. 

    None of those half-sentences address the issue Miller noted or asked about.  And Miller asked because Dellinger raised it in his opening remarks -- opening remarks he delivered but apparently did not write since he was unable to speak to.  In fact, those accompanying Dellinger were also unprepared to speak -- not just due to their avoiding the topic ("we'd like to get back to you") but in their repeated stopping mid-sentence ("I'm sorry").  They couldn't even structure a full non-answer.  Even worse, though no one seemed to notice, two American Legion testifiers were in conflict with one another in their statements.  That's the sort of thing you iron out before you speak in public.  Not after.  That's especially true when the National Commander takes a position in his opening remarks and written testimony and another AL offers conflicting testimony.

    The American Legion members should be very bothered by the inability of their leadership to address questions raised by the two Committees or to reconcile their own messaging.

    I'll take the heat off them by moving to something even more embarrassing.  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi attended the hearing.  She babbled as only she can.  I'm done with carrying the lies that no veteran should be homeless in these snapshots.  Hearing it from my own representative was probably the last straw.

    Reality, no American should be homeless.

    Shame on Congress for not addressing the issue of the homeless.

    No American deserves to be homeless.

    It is unacceptable.

    And it is unacceptable for members of Congress to grandstand on veterans.  They are in the Congress supposedly to represent America.  It is an offense that anyone is sleeping on the streets in the United States.  Shame on members of Congress  who have the ability to fix this problem but instead avoid it and try to create a tier of American citizenship where one group has a right to shelter but others don't.

    That's beyond bulls**t.

    I am the first to argue that promises made to those who serve be kept.  But there's no promise to veterans that they'll have jobs or homes.  That promise to them?  It's made not because of their service, it's made because they're Americans.  And every American -- veteran or civilian -- has a right to a job and shelter.

    Promises made to veterans include health care and pensions.  There are many other promises.  Every promise made should be honored.

    But the right to shelter is like the right to democracy, it is made to all Americans.

    Nancy Pelosi is not the first to have climbed on the backs of veterans and toss out sop.  But she is my representative in Congress and, as the San Francisco Chronicle has documented for years now, homelessness in San Francisco is "The Shame of the City."  She's been in Congress since 1987, she's been Minority Leader, Speaker of the House and now, once again, Minority Leader.  And yet things aren't any better in San Francisco so excuse me for not applauding her hollow words or cheering her one for the argument that no veteran should be homeless.  No American should be homeless.  Nancy's failure to make that statement goes a long, long way towards explaining her inability to seriously address the homeless issue.

    We'll note more of the hearing in tomorrow's snapshot.  Later tonight, Wally will post at Rebecca's site about House Ranking Member Mike Michaud.

    Today, we were in New York for Nickolay Mladenov's presentation to the United Nations Security Council.  (Yes, I said I was done with those unless I had a reason to be in New York.  I did have a reason so I attended it.)  Mladenov is the special envoy to Iraq of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

    We're not going to do a lot on his testimony here but we are going to note this and see if you grasp what stands out:

    On 28 December, in Ramadi, the Iraqi security forces raided the house of Ahmad al-Alwani, a member of the Council of Representatives with close links to the demonstrators, while executing an arrest warrant on his brother, Ali Suleyman al-Alwani, on terrorism charges. Ahmad al-Alwani was arrested, while his brother and several family members and bodyguards were killed in an exchange of fire. In protest, a large number of local residents took to the streets, which led to armed clashes with security forces in Ramadi and Falluja.

    al-Alwani wasn't the target of the raid?

    While everyone was sleeping, Nouri launched his thugs on a mission that ended in innocents being killed and wounded and, on top of all that, Ahmad al-Alwani -- who gets arrested -- wasn't even the target?

    He shouldn't have been arrested to begin with -- as a Member of Parliament, he has immunity until he leaves office unless Parliament votes to strip him of it.  From the Iraqi Constitution.

    Article 63: 

    First: A law shall regulate the rights and privileges of the speaker of the Council of Representatives, his two deputies, and the members of the Council of Representatives. 


     A. A member of the Council of Representatives shall enjoy immunity for statements made while the Council is in session, and the member may not be prosecuted before the courts for such. 

     B. A Council of Representatives member may not be placed under arrest during the legislative term of the Council of Representatives, unless the member is accused of a felony and the Council of Representatives members consent by an absolute majority to lift his immunity or if he is caught in flagrante delicto in the commission of a felony. 

     C. A Council of Representatives member may not be arrested after the legislative term of the Council of Representatives, unless the member is accused of a felony and with the consent of the speaker of the Council of Representatives to lift his immunity or if he is caught in flagrante delicto in the commission of a felony.  

    But there was no warrant to arrest him and he got arrested?

    He didn't just get arrested.  He was terrorized as his home was attacked at dawn.

    This is how Nouri 'rules,' he refuses to do the honest thing, which would be to show up -- during daylight hours -- at someone's home with an arrest warrant and then escort the person to a police station to be booked.  Instead, he orders an attack on someone's home in darkness.

    He was wanting a battle, he was wanting to scare people, to make them think a terrorist attack was happening.  This was not an accident, the events that followed were not by chance.

    And now we find out that even though the MP ended up arrested, there wasn't even an arrest warrant for him?

    Nouri should be brought up on charges for that alone.

    Instead, he thinks he deserves a third term as prime minister.

    His slogan will apparently be, "I failed to accomplish anything in my first term, I failed to accomplish anything in my second term, but third term's the charm."

    Tuesday, the entire board of commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission submitted their resignations in writing despite the fact that parliamentary elections are supposed to be held April 30th.  To the Security-Council today, Mladenov attempted to sell this as a good thing, a gift, "This gives a window of opportunity for the Iraqi parliament to address the concerns that the commissioners have."

    If you can spin that, it's no surprise you'll spin so much more.  Mladenov refused to call the assault on Anbar "War Crimes," though that is what they are. Last night, Nouri's continued shelling of Falluja's residential neighborhood left 2 civilians dead and five injured. Alsumaria reports Falluja General Hospital was again shelled by Nouri's forces today.

    Before the UN Security Council today, Mladenov could allow that "336 civilians" had been killed in the assault with 1,562 more left injured.  But he couldn't call out the assault itself or Nouri.  He did manage to note that 66,520 families were displaced as a result of the assault.  We may come back to his report in tomorrow's snapshot.

    March 8, 2014, International Women's Day, Iraqi women protested in Baghdad against Nouri al-Maliki's proposed bill which would allow father's to marry off daughters as young as nine-years-old, strip away the need for consent to sex,  and would strip custodial rights from mothers.  The State Dept only commented when pressed during a briefing.  The White House -- despite pretending to support women -- has still had no public statement.

    While Women's Media Center and Ms. magazine's blog have still not had time to address the issue a conservative radio talk show has.

    Actress Janine Turner first garnered attention on Behind The Screen and then played Laura Templeton on General Hospital, Maggie on Northern Exposure and Dana on Strong Medicine.  Janine's way too the right of me (and I'm way, way to the left of her), which is fine.   I didn't know she had a radio show.

  • Ashe Schow: In Iraq: Girls can marry @ 9 yrs. old- In America: Feminists are trying to "Ban Bossy": LISTEN HERE:

  • We'll do an excerpt of her show but, to be accurate, Ashe Schow is characterizing a bill as a law.  The offensive bill has not yet been passed by the Iraqi parliament.  (It did pass Nouri's Council of Ministers.)

    Asche Schow: Well, in Iraq, they just passed this law that's basically saying a man is basically entitled to have sex with his wife whenever he wants, whether she wants to or not -- it's essentially spousal rape.  The law also allows for girls to be married as young as nine and basically says that a woman can't leave her house without a man's permission -- basically nothing without a man.  And this is a law that they passed to put these old, old world -- decades old things into law, legitimizing it all.  Meanwhile, in America, feminist women aren't talking about that.  They want to ban the word "bossy," saying that this hurts girls and this stops girls from achieving things when what really stops girls from achieving things is being marries at the age of nine and being told that you are property and that kind of stuff.

    Janine Turner:  I agree with you.

    Ashe Schow:  But the word "bossy"?

    Janine Turner:  I know, it's just unbelievable.  I'm glad you brought this to everyone's attention, Ashe, because not only that, it says here that in Iraq some things that stand out to me in your article, in your opinion and editorial here, one is that they automatically can get married at -- no, girls can get married now by law by the age of nine and the husband automatically gets custody of these girls.  Nine!  Nine.  And another thing that appears to me is that they had a protest in Iraq -- and this speaks volumes, I believe -- two dozen women protested, it's only 24 women.  That goes to show how frightening it is and how they really worried about probably their lives and why more couldn't go out and protest. 

    Ashe Schow: Right.  Exactly.  And meanwhile I protested this article like I put up a meme saying basically the same thing is in the article and a whole bunch of American feminists attacked me for it saying like, "How dare you equate the two."  It's not me who's equating the two, it's them that are saying that the word "bossy" is just as terrible in America as spousal rape is in the Middle East. That's equating the issues.  I'm saying they are not the same and you need some perspective and you need to take a look and say, "Maybe this isn't such a big deal after all when they [. . .]"

    "Bossy" is a word.  Were it to be banned, a new word would pop up. The problem isn't the word, it's the way girls are seen.  And that could be addressed and should be.  But that's not what the ban campaign is about.  It's about a faux feminist, Sheryl Sandberg, promoting her tired wares.  This is corporatism, it's not feminism. [If this is news to you, refer to Susan Faludi's "Facebook Feminism, Like It or Not" (The Baffler).]

    As we've seen this month with Iraq 'coverage' in the US, a lot of lazy people don't want to do real work so they run with the stupid and easy.  You have lazy women, some feminist and some not, who can't think or write on their own so they foolishly hop on a bandwagon.  You also have women who know this is a press created topic and you can get links and love by repeating an empty and idiotic message.

    The two women and I are on the opposite ends of the political spectrum.  But in terms of what should have been focused on?  We're in agreement that the news was what was happening to Iraqi women.

    This is an important issue.  The western press ignored it forever and a day.  When finally forced to cover it, many western outlets insisted it was no big deal, just electioneering and would fade away after the elections.  Yet now the bill's being read and the outlets who told you not to worry are not telling you about that, are they?

    Let's turn to today's violence.  Al Jazeera reports, "A series of bombings targeting commercial areas of Baghdad have killed 22 people and left scores wounded as residents were heading out on the town in the latest spasm of violence to strike the Iraqi capital, according to officials."  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) notes, "In Iraq's northern province of Nineveh, a candidate for Mutahidoun political bloc was shot dead by gunmen while he was driving his car in the city of Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad."

    National Iraqi News Agency reports a roadside bombing ("between Balad and Samarra") left 4 "women inspectors killed and eleven other women" injured, an Alzgartah Village home invasion left 1 woman dead and another woman and one child injured, a Mosul battle left 1 rebel dead and another injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left two Iraqi soldiers injured, security sources say they killed 3 suspects in Sinsil Village, and a Tabbana Village battle left 1 police member and 1 rebel dead and a civilian injured.  Alsumaria adds an Ishaqi roadside bombing (south of Tikrit) left two Iraqi soldiers injured, 1 woman was shot dead and another civilian left injured in Kirkuk, a bombing northeast of Falluja left 5 Iraqi soldiers dead, and a Tikrit bombing left a police member and his wife dead.

    Yesterday, US President Barack Obama made a fool out of himself as he attempted to justify and re-sell the Iraq War. William Rivers Pitt (Truthout) explains, "Truthout does not forget. We were at the forefront of the struggle against that disastrous war, and we will not stand idly by as an alleged "good guy" slaps a coat of paint over it to cover up the blood on the walls. President Obama sounds for all the world like a used car salesman trying to peddle a lemon, and that will not happen on our watch."   DS Wright (Firedoglake) notes:

    Yesterday President Barack Obama tried to claim that the United States government’s actions in the 2003 Iraq War were legal and different than Russia’s actions in Crimea because the US had “sought to work within the international system.” Apparently merely seeking to work within the international system is some kind of get out of jail free card. If one follows Obama’s logic then Russia need only to have “sought” a doomed UN resolution justifying the annexation of Crimea before doing so, this would have made their actions legitimate under Obama’s standard.

    Pravda points out the curious nature of the speech itself, "The key event of Obama's European tour was his speech in the Brussels Palace of Fine Arts in front of 2,000 people. His lengthy discourse on the history and common values ​​with Europeans was very quickly replaced with anti-Russian rhetoric.The speech turned out to be a dispute with Russian authorities, entirely devoted to the situation in Ukraine."  Yes, it was a strange speech, both for topic and for tone.  In fact, it was more of a spew than a speech.   Greg Mitchell (The Nation) notes Barack's foolish remarks.  The Voice of Russia notes:

    Matt Howard and Ross Caputi, members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, spoke with Common Dreams by phone and said that the president's narrative on the events that led up to the Iraq invasion, inside or outside the context of Ukraine, was simply "not grounded in reality." "We went from one lie, which was weapons of mass destruction, to another lie which was liberation and freedom," said Howard. "This idea that Iraq is somehow better off or that the US waged a so-called 'Good War' is ridiculous."

    Let's note some Twitter reactions:

  • Nobel Peace Prize recipient Barack Obama now seeks to kosher the US invasion and occupation of Iraq:

  • hey depleted uranium used in Iraq from US causing birth defects+cancer.F U CRIMEA IS WORSE THEN IRAQ

    1. Obama said "Iraq invasion not as bad as Crimea"..True, Iraq took 1million+ innocent lives & stole resources.. & well Crimea took 0...

  • Meanwhile,  Justyn Dillingham (Salon) writes:

    It is disingenuous to say that we “sought to work within the international system” without noting that we subsequently went to war in flagrant violation of international law. Even one of the war’s chief architects admitted that the invasion was not strictly legal. Richard Perle, one of the Pentagon’s most eager advocates of war on Iraq, said in November 2003 that international law “would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone” and that “in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing.” Even if the Bush administration would have preferred to go to war with the support of the United Nations, the fact remains that they went to war without it. Saying that the United States “sought to work within the international system” before invading Iraq is like praising a burglar because he checked to see if your door was unlocked before breaking a window.
    The consequences of this reckless act go far beyond the awful human cost of the Iraq War. Our invasion of Iraq undermined the authority of the United Nations and created a dangerous precedent for other preemptive wars. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Bush’s war a “fundamental challenge” to the core principles of the United Nations and warned that it “could set precedents that [result] in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without credible justification.” Putin himself, in defending his actions in Crimea, cited the record of the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

    While most focus on the Iraq aspect, Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) chooses to call out Barack's speech for the WWI remarks.  John Glaser ( focuses on Barack's defense of the illegal Iraq War and observes, "This is perhaps the most asinine thing the president has said in the entirety of his presidency. The invasion of Iraq was an illegal, preventive war based on lies. It got hundreds of thousands of people killed and cost trillions of dollars. The U.S.-backed dictator of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, is ruling the nation with an iron fist, as the country slips back into civil war. Nothing but chaos, ruin, and rivers of blood resulted from the criminal invasion. For Obama to even dare to compare Crimea to Iraq is a sick joke." And Patrick Martin (WSWS) points out:

    The truth is that the war in Iraq was the greatest crime—up to now—committed in the 21st century. More than a million Iraqis lost their lives as a result of the US invasion and occupation, and Iraq was destroyed as a functioning society. The Bush administration openly declared that the Geneva Conventions and international law did not apply either to the war in Iraq or the previous conquest and occupation of Afghanistan, a position that the Obama administration continues to uphold.
    Obama seeks to rally the world against the supposed crimes of Russia in Crimea, in which, as of this writing, two people have been killed (one Ukrainian soldier and one Russian), while opposing any prosecution of the American war criminals responsible for the immense bloodbath visited upon the people of Iraq.
    Instead, the US president excused the monumental crimes of his own government with the statement, “Of course, neither the United States nor Europe are perfect in adherence to our ideals. Nor do we claim to be the sole arbiter of what is right or wrong in the world.”
    Actually, the US government does claim that role. Administration after administration has declared the United States to be “the indispensable nation,” the sole superpower, the country whose military-intelligence apparatus must be the world’s policeman, and whose leaders are immune from any accountability for their actions.