Wednesday, May 28, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Betty)


These days, the summer blockbuster wears more costumes than the cast of The Birdcage.  Below, Betty weighs in on the latest chapter in the X-Men franchise.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

The latest X-Men film is "X-Men: Days of Future Past."

On the plus, it stars Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and he can do no wrong in this role.

Sadly, the same can't be said for others.

Jennifer Lawrence is awful as Mystique.


Not merely bad, awful.

And that's glaring not just because she's an Academy Award winning actress but because women don't do a damn thing in this film.

Yes, pregnancy sidelined Halle Berry.  But that's no excuse.

This is a film about the X-Men that ignores women superheros.

Kitty Pride is in it.  She's pretty much useless.

I'm sorry.

What's onscreen looks great.

But all three of my kids, not just my daughter, were asking where the women were in this film?

The most prominent is the villain Mystique and Jennifer Lawrence provides a very weak performance.

See the film for Hugh Jackman but this is a sub-standard X-Men and I don't think there's been a quality version since the first two in the series (which Bryan Singer directed -- he returns to direct this one and it's a mess).

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, May 23, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's War Crimes continue, the Kurds best Nouri on the oil issue, two more Democrats urge embattled VA Secretary Shinseki to resign over the VA scandal, and much more.

Imagine that you woke up this morning to find you were the ruler of a country and that your country had only one high value export while your people lived in poverty and you had to import rice and other basic food staples.

Realizing the importance of your sole commodity, you would most likely attempt to ensure that everything was in order, every 'i' dotted, every 't' crossed.

You'd do that because of the importance of the commodity to your entire country.

And if you didn't do that and the citizens found out, they'd consider you a failure.

Well the commodity is oil, the country is Iraq and the failure is Nouri al-Maliki.

The chief thug of Iraq was put into place by Bully Boy Bush in 2006 with the understanding the Nouri would push through an oil and gas law because 'liberated' Iraq had none.  In 2007, with the US Congress questioning what was being accomplished in Iraq, the Bully Boy Bush administration came up with a series of 'benchmarks' which success would be measured by.  Chief among the benchmarks?  Passing an oil and gas law.

Nouri wanted the US taxpayers money that the US government had been wasting to continue to flow into Iraq, so he readily agreed to the benchmarks.

But he was unable to pass any oil and gas law.

Not in 2006.

Not in all the years he held the post.

Let's not pretend that there weren't problems.

There were problems.

I, for one, was always thrilled watching Nouri's continued failure.

That's because the law the US government wanted, the one Nouri forever pimped, wasn't wanted by Iraqis and especially wasn't wanted by Iraqi labor groups.

When a proposed law is deeply unpopular what do you do?

If you're the leader you can try to ram it through.

It's not democratic but sometimes it can be rammed through.

But you might try that once or even twice.  When you've tried that over and over since 2006?

You're not just a bad leader, you're kind of idiot.

A smart person jettisons the parts that are felt objectionable and refashions a new bill.  A smart person refashions it in a way to get more people on board and uses horse trading on that and other issues to bring others on board.

When your economy has no diversification to speak of and is rooted around only one commodity, you do everything you can to secure that commodity.

If you're not an idiot.

Nouri's an idiot.  Eight years in a row as prime minister and he couldn't even make the most basic move to secure the economy.  And yet the failure thinks he deserves a third term as prime minister.

SPA reports, "Iraq filed for arbitration against Turkey on Friday" and that the filing was "with the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce."

What's going on?

From yesterday's snapshot:

Marina Ottaway offers an analysis for CNN which includes, "Elated by his victory, al-Maliki is sounding uncompromising, and although he has declared that he is open to work with any political party, he has made it clear that it would be strictly on his own terms. For example, he has told the Kurdish party that they are welcome in a government coalition as long as they accept his interpretation of the constitution, thus renounce their ambition to export oil independently."  Apparently while preparing that analysis today, Ottaway missed Sinan Salaheddin's Associated Press report which opens, "Iraq's self-ruled northern Kurdish region on Thursday started exporting crude oil to the international market through the Turkish port of Ceyhan despite objections from the central government in Baghdad, Turkey's energy minister said." 

This morning, Gary Dixon (TradeWinds) noted, "Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz told Reuters loading of the 1m barrel stem was completed on Thursday."  Selcan Hacaoglu and Ali Berat Meric (Bloomberg News) added, "More than one million barrels of Kurdish oil were shipped from Turkey to Europe yesterday, Turkey’s energy minister and the Iraqi Kurdish administration said, a sale that may trigger legal action by Iraq’s government."

The Kurdistan Regional Government issued the following today:

Erbil, Kurdistan ( - In line with its policy of implementing the 2005 Constitution of Iraq and helping Iraq achieve its oil production, export and revenue targets, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has completed the first sales of crude oil produced in the Kurdistan Region and piped to the port of Ceyhan.
A tanker loaded with over one million barrels of crude oil departed last night from Ceyhan towards Europe. This is the first of many such sales of oil exported through the newly constructed pipeline in the Kurdistan Region.
The revenue from the sales will be deposited in a KRG-controlled account in Halkbank in Turkey and will be treated as part of the KRG’s budgetary entitlement under Iraq’s revenue sharing and distribution as defined under the 2005 Constitution of Iraq.
Meeting Iraq’s continued international UN obligations, five percent of the sales revenue will be set aside in a separate account for reparations.
The KRG has invited independent bodies to observe the sales and export process in line with the KRG’s commitment to transparency. KRG also hopes that officials from SOMO (the federal Iraqi oil marketing organization) accept KRG’s invitation to observe the process. 
The KRG will continue to exert its rights of export and sell oil independently of SOMO but remains committed to negotiate in good faith with its counterparts in Baghdad to reach a comprehensive settlement on oil issues within the framework of Iraq’s Constitution.

  The KRG has worked tirelessly with its international partners and investors to create new pathways to prosperity and economic development for the people of Kurdistan and Iraq and is ready to become a reliable and stable source of energy both for its immediate neighbours and international markets.

The Kurds can sale their oil because (a) they're semi-autonomous and (b) no national oil & gas law has been passed.
Nouri's hands are tied.  It's as though he's finally been placed in the straight jacket he has needed for so long.  If he let's his crazy run loose he could piss off the Kurds.  If he really let's his crazy run free, he could frighten even potential Shi'ite partners.  Nouri, if he's going to have a third term, needs to cobble together a coalition and looking crazy isn't going to help with that.  As BBC News points out, "The tensions come as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki looks to form a new coalition government after falling short of a majority in last month's parliamentary elections.  Analysts say the Kurds could use the negotiations to secure concessions."
So he's suing.
He's suing Turkey over what he insists is Iraqi oil.
Ahmed Rasheed and Isabel Coles (Reuters) reports:

"By transporting and storing crude oil from Kurdistan, and by loading that crude oil onto a tanker in Ceyhan, all without the authorization of the Iraqi Ministry of Oil, Turkey and BOTAS have breached their obligations under the Iraq-Turkey Pipeline Agreement," the government said in a statement.
Both BOTAS and Turkey's Ministry of Energy said they had yet to receive any information about the arbitration from either the ICC or the Iraqi government.
Today's Zaman reports:
The revenue from the sale was deposited into an account of Turkey's state-run Halkbank. The KRG said it remained open to negotiations with Baghdad and would comply with United Nations obligations by setting aside 5 percent of the revenue in a separate account for reparations for Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said on Friday that the first cargo was sold in to the Mediterranean spot crude market.
In 2009, the northern Kurdish region attempted to ship its oil to the international market via a pipeline controlled by Baghdad connected to Ceyhan; however, the shipments were halted amidst payment disputes. Last year, the KRG began building a separate pipeline to Ceyhan, skirting Baghdad's control. Iraq has the fourth-largest proven oil reserves in the world, and oil revenues account for just under 95 percent of the country's budget.
The Kurds are using their own pipeline but let's jump to the other pipeline to Turkey, the one the central government out of Baghdad controls because there's development there as well.  Ahmed Rasheed and Ziad al-Sinjary (Reuters) note, "Iraqi engineers are at last fixing the main pipeline to Turkey after it was shut down for nearly three months in attacks by an al Qaeda-offshoot cell, causing a total collapse in exports from northern oil fields worth billions of dollars."  For three months, Nouri let that pipeline cease production? What kind of a leader is that?
AFP notes, "Baghdad has warned that it will not give the Kurds their 17% share in the national budget and will sue the buyers if they go ahead with the exports without central government approval. Officials in Baghdad did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment."  Nouri's blackmail hasn't worked and it would probably be beneficial for AFP to include the Kurdish claim that they haven't received a cent of funding from Baghdad since the start of the year.
Rudaw explains, "Erbil opened its new pipeline to Ceyhan in December, but after strong opposition from Baghdad Ankara said it would hold off on allowing the sales until consent from the central government. But after months of bickering and acrimony, including Baghdad freezing Erbil out of the national budget for months, no agreement was reached."
I'm unclear on the constitutional or legal principle that allows Nouri to refuse to give regions their share of federal monies -- I'm unclear because the Iraqi Constitution doesn't allow for it nor does any Iraqi law.  AFP notes a fact but it's a partial fact.  They don't note that Nouri's blackmail is illegal.  But they will carry his claim that what the Kurds are doing is wrong.
Seeking Alpha notes, "Oil companies with a Kurdistan presence include global majors Exxon Mobil (XOM), Chevron (CVX), Marathon Oil (MRO), Hess (HES) and Total (TOT), as well as wildcatters such as Gulf Keystone (GUKYF) and Genel Energy (GEGYF)."  Mike Whitney (CounterPunch) develops that theme further:
If it sounds like the big boys are dividing the spoils among themselves; it’s because they are. Exxon, BP, Shell; they’re all here. They all have their contracts in hand, and they’re all drilling their brains out thanks to the American servicemen and women who gave their lives for some trumped up baloney about WMD. Isn’t that what’s going on?
Sure it is. And even now–after all the reasons for going to war have been exposed as lies–the farce continues. Nothing has changed. Nothing. There’s still no talk of reparations, no official investigation, no indictments, no prosecutions, no trials, no penalties, no nothing. Not even a stinking apology. Just a big “up yours” Iraq. We’re way too important to apologize for killing a million of your people and reducing your five thousand year old civilization to a pile of rubble.  Instead, we’ll just screw you some more and paper it over with a little public relations, like Obama did a couple weeks ago when he promised to “leave behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people”.
Oh yeah. Obama’s all about sovereignty and stability, everyone knows that.  That’s why Baghdad is the terror capital of the world, because Obama’s so committed to security.
These PR blurbs are effective though, they provide the necessary cover for leaving enough troops behind to protect the oil installations and pipelines.  That’s the kind of security Obama cares about. Security for the oiligarchs and their stolen property.  Everyone else can fend for themselves, which is why Baghdad is such a bloody mess.  
At yesterday's US State Dept press briefing, the oil issue was raised to spokesperson Jen Psaki.

QUESTION: Thank you. Today Turkish energy minister stated that Turkey began shipping Kurdistan Regional Government’s oil to the world market. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen these reports and we’ll discuss their implications with our partners in Turkey and in the Iraqi Kurdistan region. Our most immediate concern is for Iraq’s stability. We’ve had a longstanding position on this issue, as you know, that has not changed. And Iraq is facing a difficult situation. We’ve been clear that it’s important for all sides to take actions to help the country pull together and avoid actions that might further exacerbate divisions and tensions. So we’ll be in touch with both sides.

QUESTION: Have you talked to Baghdad over this recent decision?

MS. PSAKI: Have we talked --

QUESTION: -- talked to the Maliki government on this particular issue?

MS. PSAKI: We will be in touch, I’m certain, with them as well. We’re in touch with them on a regular basis. But again, I don’t have any specific updates on contacts. But go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you see this shipping to the world market of Kurdistan Regional Government’s oil – is this a factor for division, contribute to division of Iraq? Is this your assessment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our position has long been that we don’t support exports without the appropriate approval of the federal Iraqi government, and certainly we do have concerns about the impact of those continuing.
Actually, that's incorrect, the position of the State Dept changed in that press briefing, the one where Psaki insisted there was no change.  We've long argued here that the position Psaki presented Thursday is the true US government position.  However, until yesterday, the State Dept like to pretend they weren't taking sides.  They also liked to repeatedly note, "That said, you know that for many years, in fact, the United States has been urging all parties in Iraq to enact the necessary national laws that can govern the oil and gas sector because the sooner they do that, the sooner companies can invest in a legally viable way."
That quoted statement?  It's at random.  Then-State Dept spokesperson Victoria Nuland made it in the November 22, 2011 State Dept press briefing but you can find it almost any of them.
Psaki's made clear that the US government is not neutral on this issue and is taking sides.  She's also failed to include the historical detail that the State Dept spokesperson usually includes regarding there being no national law at present.
Hopefully, the Kurdish government caught what happened in that press briefing as well and will remember the US government is no friend of the Kurds -- and hopefully they will remember that when the US government attempts to counsel them on how to form the next government.
Can someone counsel Paul Waldman?
Free Speech TV reposts his American Prospect piece -- a deeply stupid and deeply embarrassing piece. Before we get to the stupidity, let's note a few things.
The VA scandal has some on the right arguing that this is proof of a failure of socialized medicine and various people are being ridiculed who have suggested in the last 15 years or so that the VA system be opened wide for all Americans.
Our focus is the VA scandal.  And I've never written about expanding the VA medical system for all Americans.  So I could take a pass on this and get away with it.  But I have been speaking around the country about war for so many years and one thing that comes up is this.  I have no problem stating -- or now dictating -- that I do think the expansion of VA would be a good thing.  I have no problem with socialized medicine.  The VA's current scandal isn't about socialized medicine.  
I don't want to get to deep into this because it's not a main point (we can touch on it tomorrow in "I Hate The War").  But certainly, true socialized medicine would not have to factor in profit motive.  And yet two sets of lists -- one real, one fake -- were kept at least in part because certain officials got bonuses and high performance appraisals (which means raises) by doctoring the books.
There may be reasons to argue against or for socialized medicine but the VA scandal currently is not one of them.
Unless you want to treat an issue like a political football.  Gun control advocates who immediately start screaming after a public shooting never get how tacky and outrageous to most Americans.  A tragedy has taken place and a group is stepping forward to try to hijack the grief for their own political goals.  It's unattractive.  It's also unattractive when the right or the left tries to use the current VA scandal as a political football on the issue of socialized medicine.
So let's try to stay focused on reality.
Veterans are suffering.
They're suffering because a number of officials in the VA are crooked and dishonest and have participated in crimes.  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi this week expressed the possibility that crimes may have been committed and, if so, would need to be addressed via the legal system.
Nancy's talking about big crimes -- and she's right.  But I'm talking about basic fraud.  And fraud was committed and people need to be charged with it.
They defrauded the government, they defrauded the taxpayer.
They kept two sets of lists.  The false one promoted the lie that veterans were getting medical appointments within fourteen days of requesting them.  The real one showed that veterans were waiting weeks and months for these appointments.
Paul Waldman writes:
This scandal isn't about the quality of care. While there are surely some veterans who have gotten poor care, just as there are plenty of patients at private hospitals who get poor care, the V.A. actually has an excellent record on this score.
No, Paul, it is about the quality of care.  And nobody gives a damn about what some stupid poll says about customer satisfaction.  Those polls are rarely accurate -- as anyone knows who knows a thing about polling.  Whether it's a grocery store, a fast food place, a zoo or the VA, most respondents try to be kind and take into account that people tried to help them.  A small number of respondents fear their responses will come back to haunt them (they don't trust that the feedback will be anonymous).  There are many issues at play here but no one ever believes -- except the uninformed -- a customer satisfaction survey really conveys customer satisfaction.
Barry Coates is a victim of the current scandal.  The long delays allowed his cancer to reach stage-four before being diagnosed.  His story is part of the scandal.  If the VA hadn't kept two sets of books, they wouldn't have been able to drag out the long time between appointments for Coates.  Equally true, the VA failed to recognize his symptoms early on when he did get a medical appointment.  Trina went over all of this last night at her site:

In the  April 9th "Iraq snapshot", C,I. reported on that day's House Veterans Affairs Committee.
Veteran Barry Coates appeared before the Committee to explain how he had blood from his rectum and went to the VA for medical attention.  He was palmed off on one doctor after another.  He was not given the needed exams.  For a year, he waited and waited for tests that were not ordered and treatment that did not come.
Mr. Coates had cancer, colon cancer.  It was in the early stages.
Had the basic procedures been followed, it would have been diagnosed in the early stages.
Instead, as he waited for a year for proper medical treatment, the cancer went undiagnosed and untreated.
When it was finally discovered, Mr. Coates had stage-four cancer.
Outside of prayer, Mr. Coates' prognosis is not a pleasant one, as he himself noted.
He has stage-four cancer because the VA refused to schedule him for appointments.
Because the VA refused to recognize his symptoms.
Barry Coates' story is not uncommon.  And before the next Paul Waldman makes an idiot of themselves in public, let's also point out what those of us who attend the VA Committee hearings in Congress damn well know but the Chattering Waldmans don't: VA doctors are not the best.  Some are very good.  But if you practice at San Francisco General Hospital or Santa Ana's Western Medical Center, you have to be licensed with the State of California.  That's true in all the states.  But it's not true with the VA.  Their doctors don't meet those standards and are not held to those standards. So before the next chattering idiot from my side (the left)  extols the great excellence of the VA, stop.  Because what you're actually pimping is less regulation.  Again, the VA has some very good doctors.  They also have some doctors who couldn't work in a county hospital because they can't meet the state requirements.
AP reports Michelle Nunn (Sam Nunn's daughter who's running in the Democratic primary for the open Senate out of Georgia) and Alison Lundergan Grimes (running for the US Senate out of Kentucky) have both called for VA Secretary Eric Shineski to step down.  Nunn is quoted stating, "It has become increasingly clear that we need new leadership to build confidence, focus and accountability at the VA to fix what is wrong with the agency.  I hope that Gen. Shinseki will step aside to allow for fresh leadership to tackle these pressing issues and support the veterans that the general is deeply committed to serving."
The two women are part of a building chorus.  From yesterday's snapshot:
Bret Hayworth (Sioux City Journal) reports Iraq War veteran Jim Mower, who is running for Congress, publicly called today for Shinseki to resign:

"I am appalled by the actions of the president and the V.A.," Mowrer said.
Mowrer is a veteran who served in Iraq for 16 months with an Infantry Battalion out of Waterloo, Iowa. He said Obama only reacted after weeks of media outcries about veterans hospitals, so he sees "a rudderless ship approaching disaster."
Mowrer is not worried about any fallout from his criticism of Obama, who is a fellow Democrat.
"I don't care who the president is, it needs to be fixed," he said.

Jim Mower isn't the only Democrat making the call for Shinseki to step down.  As noted in yesterday's snapshot, US House Reps John Barrow and David Scott (both Democrats) called yesterday for Shinseki to step down.   In addition, Andrew Johnson (conservative National Review -- link is text and video) notes Bob Kerry appeared on Hardball last night and called for Shinseki to step down.  (Disclosure, as noted before, I know and like Bob Kerrey.)  The Vietnam veteran, former Governor of Nebraska and former US senator told Chris Matthews, "In this case I think there's an urgency for General Shinseki, who is honorable man and served his country honorably, but he needs to step aside."

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following yesterday:

IAVA Meets with Senator McCain on VA Scandal

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or


IAVA Meets with Senator McCain on VA Scandal
Leaders applaud his strong leadership on VA accountability

Washington DC (May 22, 2014) – Today, leaders from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), including IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff, met with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), one of only two combat veterans in the Senate, about the ongoing crisis of confidence in the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Senator McCain and IAVA have lead the charge for reform and accountability at VA since the news first broke four weeks ago. 

“Since this scandal first broke, Senator McCain has had our back. While others have followed, delayed and made excuses, he has stepped out in front. We applaud his strong leadership, tenacity and demands for real accountability. As a fellow combat veteran, and the father of a post-9/11 veteran, Senator John McCain uniquely understands the outrage that IAVA members feel as this crisis at the VA continues to escalate.” said Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA Founder and CEO. “Just days before Memorial Day, it was an honor to stand with Senator McCain to call for strong leadership, action, and results. He more than anybody understands that our veterans deserve nothing but the best from their elected leaders. Together, we will fight to ensure they get it.”

From left to right: Paul Rieckhoff, Senator McCain, Lauren Augustie and Alex Nicholson

Senator McCain and IAVA also discussed effective measures to combat suicide among America’s troops and veterans, IAVA’s top priority for 2014. 

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.

As Laura Flint (of right-wing media watchdog Newsbusters) notes, IAVA's Paul Rieckhoff appeared yesterday on MSNBC's The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd and discussed the House passage of the VA Management Accountability Act and whether it would pass in the Senate:

TODD: I imagine it'll fly.

RIECKHOFF: Well, it probably will. And that's been the problem throughout this. Is that the House has continued to be aggressive on veterans' issues and the Senate's been pretty silent. The oversight on the Senate's Veterans' Affairs Committee by Bernie Sanders has not been aggressive and they've really got to step up their game because they're at fault here too. Both committees, the president, everybody in Congress, they can't just throw Shinseki under the bus alone. Everyone knew this was happening. There have been GAO reports and IG reports and hearing after hearing after hearing. So if you're not outraged already, you haven't been paying attention.

Rieckhoff's opinion on the Senate and Chair Bernie Sanders is not a minority view.  As noted in last Friday's snapshot, after I shared my thoughts the day prior on a Senate Veterans Affairs hearing (see the Thursday prior snapshot), five veterans who were at the hearing wanted to weigh in.  They felt I was wrong and missing some key observations.  They made their case well and I stated in that snapshot that I was wrong.  There is tremendous disappointment with Bernie Sanders especially.  And this was before Chris Cuomo told Sanders, live on CNN, that he was sounding like a schill for the VA.

Dona moderated a roundtable Sunday ("Congress and Veterans") and in it I stated, "So there's this whole group of elements coming together to form a storm.  We're talking about this in terms of Shinseki and that's where the focus should be.  However, I think the way this unfolds will also determine how Bernie Sanders tenure as Chair is seen.   I think they need to get ahead of this, Sanders and his office, because they've lost a lot of support already, in the days since the hearing, as a result of this issue and what is seen as a lack of strong response to it."

That's only become more true. He and his office do need to get ahead of this.

Bernie Sanders is a Socialist.  That's fine.  There's nothing wrong with that and too bad we don't have more in Congress.  But Bernie's the first open Socialist to serve in the Senate post WWII. That means he has obligations as a senator and obligations as a first.  If he can't defend veterans, if he can't stop making excuses for the VA, he's not just giving himself a bad name, he's giving Socialists a bad name.

Socialists like John Nichols have been trying to promote a Bernie For President in 2016 campaign.  Whether that would be a real campaign (truly running for the office) or just one to raise issues, no one's going to care too much if Bernie Sanders won't stand up for veterans and, most importantly, won't stand up to the government. Bernie can't be a lackey and also be seen as some brave maverick politician.

The former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Patty Murray is now the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.  Her office notes:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Friday, May 23, 2014                                                                      (202) 224-2834
MEMORIAL DAY: Senator Murray’s Statement Honoring Fallen Servicemembers
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) released the following statement as the nation prepares to commemorate Memorial Day:
“This Memorial Day, we are united in honoring the American heroes who answered the call to service and made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation, our families, and our freedom. It is because of their sacrifice that our children and grandchildren can enjoy a future safe from harm and full of opportunity. And it is because of their selfless commitment that America can remain a beacon for democracy throughout the world.
“Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, but also a day for reflection. When our brave men and women volunteered to protect our nation, we promised we would take care of them and their families when they return home. We must reaffirm our commitment to those still bravely serving and to remember those who gave their lives in service to our country.”
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834


Monday is Memorial Day and that only adds to the importance of the VA's latest scandal.  Media critic Howard Kurtz (Fox News) notes:
President Obama is mad as hell. The media are mad as hell. The veterans are mad as hell. We’re all mad as hell.
The journalistic uproar about the VA hospital mess has been loud and forceful, with even such liberal columnists as Dana Milbank and Gene Robinson saying this is a real, genuine, big-deal scandal—and not letting Obama off the hook.
Once again, we saw the president in reactive mode. Once again, defending an aide who didn’t seem to have control of his department. Once again, saying he didn’t know about some outrage until he heard about it from the media.
Kurtz wonders whether the media will hold Barack accountable or bury the story in the coming days?  It's a question worth pondering.
Back to Iraq where thug Nouri continues to bomb the residential neighborhoods of Falluja.  The latest victims?  National Iraqi News Agency reports that seven family members were injured today when their home was bombed.  And, later in the day, Sheikh Ali al-Basri was injured by one of the bombings while 3 civilians were killed in other residential bombings with five more injured.
In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports 2 Aljahash Village bombings left 1 police brigadier and 1 police colonel dead, a Tuz Khurmato roadisde bombing left 2 police members dead and three more injured, a Sharqat mortar attack left 3 family members dead and a fourth injured,  2 Bab-Jideed and Alfarooq car bombings left nine people injured, a Kadhimiyah bombing left 1 pilgrim dead and twelve more injured, 1 police officer was shot dead in Tikrit, 1 pharmacist was shot dead in Basra, a Muqdadiyah bombing left 3 Iraqi soldiers dead, 1 police member was shot dead in Mosul, 1 civilian was shot dead in Mosul, and a Mosul roadside bombing left two people injured.

April 30th, Iraq held parliamentary elections which means in two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine? months, a government will be formed.

Press TV notes, "Iraq's State of Law Coalition has officially named incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as its only candidate for premiership."  All Iraq News reports MP Hussein al-Mansoury with the Sadr bloc declared today, "There are some blocs that reject Maliki's nomination for the third PM Post and he has to avoid the nomination for this post to prevent shedding the Iraqis' blood due to the disturbed security situation."