Thursday, August 13, 2009

Veterans, Bully Boy turned on Cheney, new embassy and Barbra

The federal government plans to spend $78 billion over the next decade to provide veterans free in-state undergraduate education and allowances for books and housing. But across the country and at George Mason, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are asking for more than cash to ease the transition between military and civilian student life. Their needs include resource centers to help servicepeople navigate the unfamiliar world of academia and ramped-up mental health services to help them deal with the emotional aftermath of war.
At George Mason, student veterans said, officials have listened and responded to the calls for help, starting with the hiring of a Marine to act as a full-time military and veterans' liaison.
"We're getting a lot of what we've asked for," said Jonathan Zapien, 28, who served two tours in Afghanistan and is one of Mason's 425 student veterans.
Zapien and Joshua Lawton-Belous, members of the college's Student Veterans Association chapter, have led the push for recognition at Mason of student veterans' particular challenges and needs. They were frustrated, they said, when servicepeople were called up for duty in the middle of a semester and had to forfeit tuition and take F's on their transcript.

The above is from Emma Brown's "Soldiers Into Students" (Washington Post) and remember if you qualify or think you may for the new education benefits, you can refer to the VA's GI Bill website as a resource. For those with limited internet access, or who would prefer the human interaction, the toll free number is 1-888-GI-BILL-1 or 1-888-442-4551. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has a webpage that gives you a historical overview and also allows you to locate a VFW service officer who can assist veterans with the application process.

Staying with veterans' issues, the Bay Area's CBS 5 (KPIX)notes:

A federal appeals court judge in San Francisco Wednesday urged both sides to try to reach a settlement in a massive lawsuit challenging mental health care for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chief 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski told lawyers for the government and two veterans' groups, "What I'm struck by in this case is that everybody here is concerned with helping veterans."
Kozinski spoke after he and two other judges heard nearly an hour of arguments on a lawsuit filed by Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, known as the VA.
Kozinski said the panel will delay taking the case under consideration for one week in order to give the attorneys a chance to seek mediation or a settlement.
The two veterans' groups claim that lengthy delays by the VA in providing care for vets suffering combat stress, including those who are suicidal, violate the Constitution and a federal law.
They are appealing a ruling in which U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti of San Francisco said last year that the delays are troubling, but said the solutions "are beyond the power of this court" and lie in the hands of Congress and the VA.

And some may wrongly think, "Oh, there will be information at KPFA's The War Comes Home!" Wrong. In fact, so wrong that now the page doesn't display a 'Sorry, Under Maintenance' message -- the one it's displayed for over six months -- no, now you get a message that the page no longer exists. Way to go, KPFA, way to be there for the veterans. For those who've forgotten, this Aaron Glantz project received significant Pacifica attenion (and money) and was trumpeted as "FINALLY Pacifica provides some sort of program on the war." Of course that would require work and no one's ever up to that. So what happened was that Aaron got to be interviewed by all the Pacifica stations during the first weeks after the project started. He claimed there would be a daily blog and there was a . . . post every three month blog. The War Comes Home did house the broadcast of the first IVAW Winter Soldier Investigation. But, again, for six months now, visitors have seen the 'under maintenance' message and now the page is just gone.

Which, if you think about it, really is how Pacifica has treated the illegal war. Use it to drive up those donations but fail to station even one reporter in Iraq (Glantz went in the early days when the war first started). Rarely bother to call a reporter in Iraq or a citizen (FSRN has been the exception). But, you can be sure, at some point in the future, they'll dig into the 'archives' for a self-congratulating, self-stroking From The Vault special and pretend they did a damn thing on Iraq. They didn't. It's the great shame of Pacifica and why a shake up is in order (and is under way).

Speaking of posers, Norman Solomon. At ZNet, the pledged delegate for Barack Obama (who forgot to reveal that when offering campaign 'analysis' on KPFA and other Pacifica stations) dusts off yet another Iraq column (he lost interest in Iraq when he got on board with Barack) and plugs in "Afghanistan" and pretends to care about the dead (pretends is not a harsh call, he struck this same pose with the Iraqi dead and, take note, he hasn't had a concern for them in months). He ends with, "The dead can't speak up. What's our excuse?"

Our excuse? First, Norman, I didn't try to break up a marriage this decade, so I don't spend my days trying to find excuses for my behavior. Second, your excuse for silence -- on the Iraq War at least -- appears to be that you were a pledged delegate for Barack. I have no excuses because I need none. I did not support a corporatist War Hawk. I did not cover for him. I did not tell people to forget the facts and reality and just clap their hands if they believe in fairies. I didn't spend last year romping around in a mental nursery, I lived in the grown up world where people die daily and I never forgot it. I am far from the only one who can say that; however, you can't make that claim. 2008 was your year of whoring and none of us need you show up to step on a soap box. Have you no shame? Truly, Norman, have you no shame? Related, Amir Mir (Middle East Transparent) reports, "In a controversial move which has created ripples in Islamabad, the Obama administration has decided to spend around one billion dollars from its $2.4 billion War Supplemental Package for Pakistan on the construction and strengthening of its new embassy in Islamabad and additional staffing of the US mission." That's the embassy that Norman built, ya'll remember that embassy. Sing that to the tune of Aretha's "The House That Jack Built."

And staying with Aretha and music, a song dedication:

Don't play that song for me
'Cause it brings back memories
Of days that I once knew
The days that I spent with you
Oh no, don't let him play it
It fills my heart with pain
Please stop it right away
I remember just-a what he said

He said darling, "Darling, I love you"
And I know that he lied
"Darling, I love you"
You know that you lied
"Darling, I love you"
You know that you lied, you lied,
You lied, lied, lied, lied (to me)
-- "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)" written by Ahmet Ertegun and Betty Nelson.

You lied, you lied. That's what Dick Cheney is supposedly singing/sobbing. Mark Tran (Guardian) reports that the president of vice, Dickster, felt Bully Boy Bush let his war-on turn into a soft-on:

The former vice-president, Dick Cheney, grew increasingly disenchanted with George Bush in the latter's second term as president, believing his boss was going soft in the so-called war on terror, it emerged today.
The rift came to light as Cheney, the driving force behind many of Bush's hardline actions -- the invasion of Iraq, the torture of terrorist suspects -- discussed his forthcoming memoirs with former colleagues and policy experts.

Then again, Dick may just be singing, "You've lost that killing feelin'"?

Billie notes the Dallas Morning News' "Update: War report" which is an AP roundup and one item includes an item about the $87,000 judgment against Al-Sharqiya by Iraqi 'courts' which, the item says, was "falsely reporting that orders had been issued to arrest ex-detainees released by the United States." I haven't read the verdict -- has anyone? I know AP hasn't. And I know that's not AP's understanding of the verdict or wasn't yesterday. I think, in squashing things into news briefs, something got lost. The case was over an Iraqi official speaking on the record to the TV station for their report. They quoted him. In addition, they spoke with other officials who did not go on the record. One such official's statements were wrongly -- according to the TV station -- credited to the one who went on the record. The lawsuit was over that issue: Who made the statement with the official who went on the record stating he had not done so (the TV station admitted that) and stating his name had been defamed by the broadcast. The court was not being aske to rule on the report itself. Nor was the court in the position to. The verdict is yet another assault on journalistic freedom in Iraq. And the sum is outrageous for a country that repeatedly tries to scrap their meager rations programs for citizens and thinks a few hundred dollars given to the (small number) of returnees should be enough to tide them over for a full year.

Independent journalist David Bacon wonders "Can Labor Get Out Of This Mess?" (In These Times):

For anyone who loves the labor movement, it's not unreasonable today to ask whether we've lost our way. California's huge healthcare local is in trusteeship, its leading organizing drive in a shambles. SEIU's international is at war with its own members, and now with UNITE HERE, whose merger of garment and hotel workers is unraveling.
In 1995, following the upsurge that elected John Sweeney president of the AFL-CIO, the service and hotel workers seemed two of the unions best able to organize new members. Their high profile campaigns, like Justice for Janitors and Hotel Workers Rising, were held out as models. Today they're in jeopardy.
This conflict has endangered our high hopes for labor law reform, and beyond that for an economic recovery with real jobs programs, fair trade instead of free trade, universal health care, and immigration reform that gives workers rights instead of raids. The ability of unions to grow in size and political power is on the line.

Bacon is the author most recently of latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) a wonderful book and an award winning one, having just received the C.L.R. James Award. He recently discussed the book at Against The Current.

Finally, if you don't know that Rebecca's a huge Barbra Streisand fan, you don't know Rebecca. (If you only know her online, that's no excuse. Click here, here and here for but a few examples -- the last listed is Rebecca writing about seeing Barbra in concert.) She asked that the following be noted.

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If you haven't had a chance to Pre-Order Barbra's first new studio collection since 2005, featuring intimate jazz settings by Diana Krall & arrangements by Johnny Mandel, then head over to the official store now. Don't forget that upon completing your order, you can enter for a chance to win tickets to her first intimate club show at New York’s Village Vanguard since she opened for Miles Davis in 1961.
Barbra Talks About 'Love Is The Answer'
Visit now to view an exclusive video of Barbra Streisand talking about Love Is The Answer. The exclusive video features sample audio clips from the album, as well as in-studio stills from her sessions with Diana Krall. is also running a sweepstakes for a chance to win tickets to the Village Vanguard performance. No purchase necessary, visit the entry page here for more info.

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Can't get enough Barbra Streisand? Visit the official pages: Site

Barbra's new album is released next month -- and Rebecca's very excited. She noted it at her site last night and has also gotten Kat and Mike to note it. You'll see it at other community sites throughout the week. And, in a little over a month, Barbra will be doing her first club performance since 1961, at NYC's Village Vanguard. (Yes, Rebecca plans to be there.)

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