Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The dysfunctional Senate Veterans Affairs Committee

This conference condemns the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, their extension into Pakistan, and the unending threats against Iran. It calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all American and foreign troops from the region.
We denounce the widespread, daily brutality committed by US and NATO forces against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The US government and media campaign in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is based on lies. The massive presence of the American military in the Middle East and Central Asia has nothing to do with the so-called "war on terror," establishing democracy or stabilizing the area. These wars were launched in order to seize the region's energy supplies in the interests of the same corporate and financial elite that is attacking workers in the US. This is a new colonialism.
The economic crisis is intensifying tensions throughout the world. The capitalist powers are seeking to divide and redivide the world among themselves, to force their rivals to bear the burden of the crisis, with the US the leading aggressor.
The Obama administration, elected by the American people in large part to end the two wars, has taken up where the Bush government left off.
In Iraq, seven years of US occupation have devastated the economy and social infrastructure and destroyed entire cities. More than 1 million Iraqis have died and millions more have been forced into exile. The danger of renewed sectarian fighting remains ever-present. More than 4,000 American military personnel have died in Iraq, and tens of thousands have been wounded.

The above is from WSWS' "Withdraw all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan!" which is a resolution the SEP Emergency Conference on the Social Crisis & War passed without objection. The conference, held in Ann Arbor over the weekend, is already the subject of WSWS' "SEP Emergency Conference advances strategy for struggle against social crisis and war" and they note additional articles will be posted. Meanwhile the Des Moines Register reports a send-off this Sunday for 300 Army Reserve soldiers deploying to Iraq (10:00 a.m., Lincoln High School; reception after at Fort Des Moines Museum).

Turning to veterans issues, Les Blumenthal (News Tribune) reports:

With more than one in five veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan unemployed, Sen. Patty Murray introduced legislation Tuesday that would provide expanded training, job placement and small business assistance to them, calling the current situation unacceptable.
“It really makes you ask how this can be, how these heroes … struggle so much when they come home,” said Murray, D-Wash., adding that existing programs offered by the Veterans Affairs Department and the Defense Department were inadequate.
The legislation has bipartisan support. Among the co-sponsors are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin.

Bi-partisan support doesn't mean a great deal to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee as senators on both sides of the aisle can attest. It is a dysfunctional committee that appears repeatedly unable to address new business. Murray's legislation may fly through, however, because what does get accomplished tends to happen as a result of her. She's pretty much the acting chair and the Committee would do much better if the current chair would acknowledge the reality that, at 85-years-old, he is not up to the job of chairing a committee, certainly not one with such pressing responsibilities. The Democratic Party has shown no leadership in confronting him on this matter. At the age of 91 (I believe it was 91, this was two years ago -- but check my math), Robert Byrd was forced out of the chair position of a Senate committee. Byrd was more present than Akaka is. Akaka's only six years younger and any veterans committee can't afford to dabble or delay at a time when the wars are repeatedly increasing the number of veterans. BBC News, in article on PTSD among US troops, notes, "Faced with the sort of challenge it hasn't encountered for a couple of generations, the military is responding. Reaching out through ad campaigns, shifting the emphasis in training and exploring dozens of methods of treatment, some well established, others more experimental." The BBC is giving a very happy reading but it's still true that the military seems more aware of the crisis than does the Democratic leadership in the Senate which continues to allow Akaka to remain as chair.
Viola Gienger (Bloomberg News) reports:

"There's a huge list of needs, growing needs," Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an audience at West Virginia University in Morgantown yesterday. "It can only be met, I believe, by communities throughout the country joined together" with the Pentagon and the Veterans Affairs department "to get it right for those who've sacrificed so much."
Mullen met with veterans, medical researchers and community assistance groups in New York, Pittsburgh and Morgantown in the past three days to find ways to fill the gap.

And yet the Democrats in the Senate continue to allow the dysfunction of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee?

The following community sites updated last night and this morning:

Joan Wile is the founder of Grandmothers Against the War and has written the book Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace. She was part of the demonstration and has written

One had always thought of the Gray Panthers as an admirable organization advocating for the dignity and rights of older people, as so brilliantly represented by its founder, the magnetic Maggie Kuhn.
But, one would have been not fully informed. On Saturday, April 17, the Panthers celebrated their 40 years of existence, and held two actions in Washington DC which made it clear that they are a multi-issue group on behalf of persons of all ages. Their struggle against ageism is still a very important part of their agenda, but they vest other causes with as much weight.
The first of their actions on Saturday was a mixed-generation rally at the White House with unique features exemplifying the theme of environmental protection. They carried three faux open coffins with fabric effigies of a man, woman and child. Rally attendees wore white protective masks to symbolize the dangers of global warming on the air we breathe. Other colorful touches were the repeated throwing of many facsimiles of Earth globes made of cotton into the air, another symbol of how we are all affected by the dangers of global warming. Two people wore hazmat suits while pushing two wheelchaired participants. A Hazmat suit is a garment worn as protection from hazardous materials or substances and is generally combined with a breathing apparatus.
Gray Panthers April 17 rally at the White House for the environment -- above are the 3 faux 4-foot coffins with effigies of corpse represented by a cotton ball Earth globe. Also pictured are 2 people wearing hazmat suits. Note that young people are part of this event. (photo by Brooke Hollister)
Chair of the Gray Panthers National Board, Judy Lear, holding one of the cotton Earth globes with hazmat suited people on each side of her. (photo by Linda Misek-Folkoff)
Further, the demonstrators chanted repeatedly such slogans as "Don't Bury the Earth," and sang parodies of three familiar old songs, "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain When She Comes," "On Top of Old Smokey" and "God Bless America" with revised lyrics reflecting their environmental theme written by the Raging Grannies. For instance:

Hundreds of spectators responded with delight as they watched the Panthers' spectacular presentation. "I think we really connected with the crowds and got our message across, which is that the Gray Panthers are going green to protect the environment for all people, young and old, rich and poor," said Brooke Hollister, 28, Vice-Chair of the Gray Panthers National Board and an Assistant Professor at the Univ. of California San Francisco.
On Saturday evening, the Panthers repaired to the International Trades Center where they held a festive awards dinner honoring three persons of stature for their extraordinary efforts in three major areas of concern to the group -- health care, peace and the environment.
The first to be honored was Sen. Ted Kennedy, who was posthumously awarded for his decades-long championship of health care reform, the details of which need no reiteration here.
The award for environmental protection and justice went to to Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx. Ms. Carter is credited with many restoration projects in the area, such as, for instance, turning an illegal garbage dump into the Hunt's Point Riverside Park, and creating the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training program, one of the nation's first national urban green collar training and placement programs.
L to R -- Majora Carter, recipient of the Gray Panthers award for environmental justice April 17, 2010; Brooke Hollister, Vice Chair of Gray Panthers National Board (photo by Brooke Hollister)
Colman McCarthy, long-time journalist, columnist for the National Catholic Reporter, and teacher, received the award for peace activism.
Among his many activities, he founded the Center for Teaching Peace, a nonprofit that helps schools begin or expand academic programs in Peace Studies.
on the R is Colman McCarthy, recipient of the Gray Panthers award for peace activism.
(photo by Brooke Hollister)
And, reverting back to the issue it is most known for, Sally Brown, immediate past Chair of the Gray Panthers National Board, gave a speech about ageism, in which she stated, "We should be really proud of the ages we are and know that at any age we can contribute significantly to the world and lead productive, fulfilling lives."
The current chair of the National Board, Judy Lear, said that the two Washington events launched 40 actions planned to take place throughout the U.S. for the entire 40th birthday year. "We want to raise awareness of the Gray Panthers and highlight our three top priorities of the environment, health care and peace. We hope to raise our voices for everybody, all ages, about these urgent matters." she stated, "and we want to encourage people to be active -- everybody has a right and a responsibility to take some action in some way."

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends