Saturday, June 25, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, June 25, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, the persecution of journalists in Iraq, continue, the persecution of Sunnis continue, Barack Obama's VA continues to be inept, there is still no seamless, electronic record for US service members, and much more.

US President Barack Obama backed Haider al-Abadi to become the new prime minister of Iraq.

How's that working out?

Not to well.

In the latest setback, Iraqi journalist Abdul Aziz has been arrested

. . . for reporting

. . . the truth.

After reporting Shia militias looting and burning houses in Fallujah, Iraqi journalist is arrested by gov.

Iraqi journalist arrested by ISF after reporting militias' crimes in Fallujah.

Abdul Aziz is only the latest journalist to be attacked in Iraq for reporting the truth.

Adnan Abu Zeed (AL-MONITOR) notes some previous attacks:

Alhadath daily newspaper reported April 5 that Baghdad-based journalist Diyaa Hussein was beaten by an unknown armed group after he exposed corruption involving the Iraqi Police Sports Club.
On Feb. 4, journalist Hadi al-Anbak accused businessman Salem Abdel Ayman Zaher of threatening to kill him because the reporter exposed alleged corruption in agricultural land investment projects in which Zaher is involved.
On May 20, 2015, Egypt Today reported that Kirkuk-based journalist Mohammad Mowaffaq told authorities he had received death threats, and unknown armed men had stopped him in his car and threatened to cut out his tongue if he didn't quit journalism. The threats followed his investigative report on illegal arms trade.
On April 15, 2015, the Iraq Journalists Syndicate (IJS) reported TV journalist Ahmad al-Jassem was threatened, assaulted and detained for hours by some members of security forces in Babil province, south of Baghdad. He had recently reported on the lack of services in the country.
On April 11, 2015, Reuters reported its bureau chief in Baghdad was threatened on Facebook and was also criticized by an Iraqi TV channel because of his April 4 report on unlawful executions and looting in Tikrit by the Popular Mobilization Units fighting alongside the Iraqi army against the Islamic State. The reporter left the country because of the threats.

The REUTERS bureau chief in Baghdad was Ned Parker.

Not only did Haider not protect Ned, he thought the whole thing was a joke and tried to turn it into a laughing matter when he visited the US last year.  From the April 16, 2015 snapshot:

Barbara Slavin: And also, one of our colleagues, Ned Parker, recently has left because of threats against Reuters for reporting what happened in Tikrit.  Will you issue a statement in Arabic protecting journalists for reporting what goes on in Iraq.  Thank you.

Haider al-Abadi: As with Mr. Parker, Ned Parker, I've known him for many years.  I heard this story while he was still in Baghdad.  My natural fact, a spokesman for my office has given me a message and he told me Ned Parker feels threatened and asked what sort of threats he had received? We want more information so that I can take action about these people who have threatened him.  I haven't received anything on that, to be honest with you. I asked for protection of his office -- to increase protection of his office -- and we did.  But all of the sudden, I'd heard he left. I know he sent a message he wants to meet me in Washington but unfortunately my program is, uh -- I didn't even have time to talk to my wife yesterday. [Begins chuckling.]  So I don't think I would talk to Ned instead of my wife.

As for that statement in Arabic?

"I-I think my office issued a statement. In English?  Okay, we translate."

As we noted then:

What followed was an embarrassing and shameful round of laughter.

This isn't a laughing matter.

When the guffaws finally died down, the next question returned to the topic but with less 'jolly' and 'funnin'.'

Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory: [. . .] But piggy backing on the last question about Ned Parker, I was just wondering if you could briefly comment as to your take on the current state of press freedom within Iraq?  And also, in terms of going and taking action in response to Parker's being chased out of the country, what steps are you planning -- or are there any steps planned to institute protections for international press covering your country?  During your address, you said, and I quote, "A free society needs a free press."  And so I was just wondering if that would extend to foreign press as well?

Haider al-Abadi: Well I think if you look at the Iraqi press first, I think they're free to criticize.  I think that number one   institution which is being criticized in Iraq is the government.  We don't even reply to them.  We don't do anything. I drop charges against all-all media.  But I ask the media to have their own self-discipline.  That's important.  The media shouldn't be free to accuse others falsely.  They should respect freedom of others.  Freedom of speech is there but -- We need facts. But I refuse so far -- and I hope I continue on that -- you never know what office does.  Office usually corrupts people, right?  But I hope it doesn't corrupt me.  We keep on respecting the freedom of the press, we keep on protecting it.  As to the foreign press, as far as I know, there's no limitation on them, no restrictions.  They're free even to go to our --within our military unit.  I think we went to that extent to allow free reporting from the fronts.  I remember when the US army was there in 2003 [that's when Haider returned to Iraq after decades of exile in England], they had embedded journalists and they were restricted to what they were reporting.  I very much respect that.  I hope I can have that power to do that but unfortunately I cannot do it now.  It's so free, the situation in Iraq.  Now I'm not sure if Mr. Parker, why he has left.  To be honest with you, I didn't have the story from him.  He wrote something to me.  I cannot see why he left.  Was he really threatened?  Or he felt he was threatened?  I know some -- some Facebook thing and social media has mentioned him in a bad way but the-the thing I've seen -- in actual fact, they were condemning the government in the first place, not him.  They were condemning me as the prime minister to do something about it -- rather than him.  I know some of these, they want to use these things to just criticize the government in the same way when they accuse the coalition of dropping help to Da'ash or accuse the coalition of killing Iraqis falsely.  In actual fact, what they're trying to do -- trying to criticize the government for its policies. They don't want the government to seek the help of the coalition -- international coalition or to work with the US.  But to -- I think me, as prime minister, the safety of the Iraqi people, the interests of the Iraqi people is number one [. . .]

And now another journalist is targeted in Iraq for reporting the truth.

Will the White House ignore this again?

At what point do they demand that the puppet regimes they back up recognize basic human rights?


Obviously, the answer is never.

But the White House can bomb Iraq daily -- can and does.

Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
Attack, bomber, fighter, remotely piloted aircraft and rocket artillery conducted 20 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Baghdadi, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL weapons cache.

-- Near Huwayjah, a strike destroyed three ISIL vehicle bomb factories, an ISIL vehicle bomb, an ISIL weapons cache and an ISIL bunker and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Beiji, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position, three ISIL vehicles, an ISIL rocket rail and an ISIL front-end loader.

-- Near Fallujah, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL boat and two ISIL light machine guns.

-- Near Kisik, a strike destroyed an ISIL weapons cache and an ISIL mortar system.

-- Near Mosul, six strikes struck four separate ISIL tactical units and an ISIL vehicle bomb factory and destroyed four ISIL vehicles and an ISIL mortar system.

-- Near Qayyarah, four strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit; destroyed an ISIL boat and four ISIL assembly areas; suppressed two separate ISIL tactical units and three separate ISIL mortar positions; and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Ramadi, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed 10 ISIL boats, an ISIL staging area and an ISIL weapons cache.

-- Near Sinjar, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL mortar system.

Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.

The White House can also support War Crimes -- can and does.


The US has been leaning heavily on militias in its fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and while these forces have proved very effective on the ground, some have been accused of committing atrocities akin to their enemies.

A new Human Rights Watch report details allegations of torture and abuse at the hands of Shia militias in Iraq, which have been instrumental in aiding Iraqi Security Forces in seizing territory back from ISIS [. . .]

"We continue to ask what happened to the money and where are the results?"

That's Senator Mazie Hirono offering a to the point observation.

She could have been speaking about Iraq but was instead speaking of another disaster -- VA management.

Thursday, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing.  It was not good news.

This despite the fact that VA witnesses David Shulkin, LaVerne Council, Laura Eskenazi and Ron Burke tried to spin happy and even enlist the GAO's Valerie Melvin in their spin (Melvin refused to play along).

The Committee Chair is Johnny Isakson and the Ranking Member is Richard Blumenthal.

We'll note this exchange:

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  I'd like to ask about the impact of lack of cooperation between Department of Defense and VA.  As I mentioned in my opening statement, we've been reassured repeatedly that both agencies are cooperating with each other -- which somehow defies credibility because, if that's so, there would have been interoperability or the issues would have been solved long ago. So let me ask you, Ms. Melvin, who bears the responsibility here?  And what's happening?

Valerie Melvin: Actually, I place the responsibility on both departments and primarily on the leadership of those departments in terms of being able to really, uh, establish upfront what it is that the departments want to achieve in the way of interoperability.  A long standing concern that we've had with interoperability is in terms with is interoperability supposed to be.  Uh, we have not  been able, really, over the years, to get from either agency what they mean in terms of full interoperability, what that end state is supposed to be in the way of the technology that exists and how that technology is used.  So, uh, as we -- as we've looked at this over the years, we've had a lot of discussions with both VA and with the DoD, we've had a lot of assurances along the way that that was being taken care of but what we consistently see is a lack of -- really a lack of the clear planning and the definition of what it is and then how they plan to implement measures and goals to get there.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  What can -- what would you recommend that we do on this Committee and the United States Senate generally to make sure that there is interoperability?

Valerie Melvin:  I think in the immediate -- right now, I would say that there are a lot of -- we've made a lot of recommendations to both VA and DoD.  We're still following up to see where they are in the process of addressing those. But we also know that they're in the midst of a number of changes to the approach that they are taking.  We've had a lot of concerns and questions relative to the fact that both departments are essentially going down separate tracks with their modernization efforts on this step for the Dept of Veteran Affairs and the alter system within DoD.  We know that the intent to have interoperability.  I think from the standpoint of-of your role in this process is continued oversight, continued pressing for answers and explicit discussions and details relative to what the plans are, how interoperability is to be defined at its fullest and how the agencies intend to progress and measure their progress towards getting there.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  Ms. Council, my information is -- well actually, it is the VA's monthly information, Security Report for April 2016, about 2556 veterans were effected by incidents of data breach.  That number is about six times the number reported by the VA a year before that in March 2015.  What accounts for the increase?

LaVerne Council: I'd have to look at the data you have.  What I do know is that about 24% of any of the mishandlings that we have mismailings -- which is letters, data that has gone out in the wrong envelope to a-a person who shouldn't have received those and 41% of those are mishandling or mismailing.  The other part of the situation is things that we look at like privacy violations, policy violations, unencrypted devices, those are where we really, really take a very diligent look and ensure that we are tidying up any kind of access to the veterans information.  So, to date, for FY16, that's what we're basically seeing which is actually about 20% lower than it was the year before.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  What is 20% lower?

LaVerne Council:  The-the number mismailings and misappropriation, mishandling of veterans --

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  Well, we're not really talking about mismailings, we're talking about data breaches --

LaVerne Council:  The actually --

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  And I understand that a mismailing can cause a data breach --

LaVerne Council: It's considered a data breach, yes, sir.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal (Con't): If something is sent to the wrong address.  How can that happen?  Don't you -- how can you send a letter to the wrong address.

LaVerne Council: That is actually a process within the business.  It's not an IT process.  But because I am the CIO I'm responsible for all data and any data that is misused or mismanaged or moved to the wrong place -- and also have a responsibility for privacy.  It falls with us but I am not --

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  I understand that.  Here is my question: You've got records --

LaVerne Council:  Mm-hmm.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  You do mailings, communications to veterans over a period of years.  It's not like somebody sits down for that letter and [acts out physically hand writing] scribbles out something.  It comes from a system that has been mailing consistently.  How does it all of the sudden get the address wrong?

LaVerne Council:  Generally the system is not doing the mailing, there is a manual interface with human error --

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  So you are saying that somebody is sitting there and actually typing out an address on an envelope?

LaVerne Council: I am saying that envelopes come together and the paper is put into an envelope by a human being.  And sent away.   Yes.  It is not mechanized --

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  This sounds like a very low tech --

LaVerne Council: Very low tech.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  Eminently addressable and correctable.

LaVerne Council:  Yes, sir.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  What's being done?

LaVerne Council: One of the things we're looking at with the VBS team -- and working with them, and I'll refer to Mr. [VBA Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Field Operations Ron] Burke on this change in their process because right now when it occurs it's not something that IT itself created it but we feel we're responsible to correct it.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  Well these kind of data breaches -- and if they're rising six-fold over a fiscal year -- have to be addressed right away.  And we're not talking here about some sophisticated hacking operation.

LaVerne Council:  Mmm-uhh.  No.

Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal:  But it's equally dangerous and damaging to privacy.

There has been no significant progress at the VA under Barack Obama's two terms as US President thus far.

Doubt it?

The above should have reminded you of one thing.

And, thankfully, there was one senator on the Committee not afraid to speak of the elephant in the room.

Senator Jon Tester:  So let me ask, and I hesitate to ask this question, you probably know the answer and I don't, is the DoD and the VA -- is their medical records streamlined?  And can they go back and forth without any problems?
Dr. David Shulkin:  I wouldn't go that far.

He then spoke of a joint-viewer.

The seamless transition.

That record that was going to be electronic and move right over to VA from DoD when a service member transitioned to veteran.

Remember it?

The issue was highlighted before Barack became president in January of 2009.

It was something he was going to take care of -- in his first term.

It still hasn't been taken care of.

April 11, 2013, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on the budget and took testimony from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, among others.  For coverage, see that day's snapshotAva 's "Shinseki tries to present 134% increase as a gift for women,"  Wally's "How the VA and DoD waste your tax dollars (Wally)"  and Kat's "DAV calls for Congress to reject 'chained CPI'."

US House Rep Phil Roe:  Another question I have is the integration between DoD and VA on the eletronic health records and the benefits. Should we have a joint meeting between VA and DoD -- and I realize that Senator -- that Defense Secretary Hagel has a lot on his plate with North Korea and the Middle East right now. 

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Yep.

US House Rep Phil Roe:  But this is one of my concerns when we changed was the fact that this would get a backburner again.  And are we going to be sitting here -- and you and I have spoken about this and that was a private conversation and it will remain that way but are we going to be sitting here a year from now or two years or three years because it's not a resources -- putting of money -- to be able to integrate these systems.  I mean, it's really become very frustrating to me to sit here year after year and, unless the voters have a different idea, I plan to be here in 2015 and see if we complete these things we say we're going to do.  Is it there.

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Again, Congressman, Secretary Hagel and I have discussed this on at least two and maybe three occassions.  He is, again, putting into place, his system to assure the way ahead for him to make this decision and be the partner that we need here.  Uhm, he is committed to a, uh, integrated electronic health record between the two departments.  We are -- VA has made its decision on what the core  and we're prepared to move forward.

US House Rep Phil Roe:  Somebody has to blink. Obviously, we can't integrate them, so it's going to have to be one system or the other.  And I think what I heard you say was you've decided the VA is going to stay with the system it has.  That means that he's going to have to blink.

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Uh, I would say the VA system is government owned, government operated.  We have put VISTA into the  open architecture trade space so that anyone who wants to use it can use it. It's used in other countries.  I believe it is, uh, a powerful system and, uh, I'm just awaiting, uh, a discussion with Secretary Hagel. 

The VA keeps coming before Congress and offering excuses for not doing their job.


The seamless electronic record was supposed to have been place years ago.

Despite all the money thrown at the problem, it is not in place.

A functioning president would be demanding that VA and DoD get this problem working out in a matter of weeks.

Instead, it has been allowed to drag on.




ERGO notes:

ERGO/Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization
24829 Norris Lane • Junction City, OR

 Contact: Ellen Barfield, (410) 243-5876


Lawrence D. Egbert, MD, MPH, the Baltimore anesthesiologist whose leadership in the right-to-die movement cost him his Maryland license to practice medicine, died of a heart attack June 9. He was 88.

Dr. Egbert, a retired professor of anesthesiology and public health, championed the right of individuals to choose to die rather than suffer intolerable circumstances or unremitting pain—and the right of physicians, family and friends to be present with those making that choice. He helped found and served as medical director of Final Exit Network, which provides education and compassionate presence to those facing end-of-life choices; he also acted as a FEN exit guide accompanying those who hastened their own deaths. He willingly paid a high price for his activism; newspapers dubbed him “the new Dr. Death,” the State of Maryland revoked his license to practice medicine there in 2014, and at various times he was under indictment in three states for supposedly assisting suicides (although he was never convicted of any charges).

Dr. Egbert's activism also included the peace/anti-war and anti-nuclear movements, opposition to the death penalty and racism, advocacy for civil liberties, single-payer health care and simple living. He served on the boards of Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Maryland Civil Liberties Union, volunteered overseas with Doctors Without Borders, lived without a cell phone, air-conditioning, or a car, and traveled by bicycle around Baltimore until less than a year before his death. He was an active Unitarian Universalist for much of his life but attended a Quaker Meeting his last few years.

Dr Egbert's wife Ellen Barfield said, "Larry was scheduled for an aortic heart valve procedure on June 21. I grieve the cruel twist of fate that got our hopes up, but I am so proud of the many ways he stood up for suffering and abused people and against war, racism, poverty, and coercion."

Lawrence Deems Egbert Jr. was born in Champaign, IL, in 1927 and grew up in Washington, DC.  After serving in the U.S. Army in Japan after World War II, he finished a bachelor's degree at Johns Hopkins University, earned a medical degree from the University of Maryland, served in the Navy as a doctor, and returned to Hopkins later to get a Masters in Public Health. He worked at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He also served for several years as visiting faculty at Pahlavi University Medical School in Shiraz, Iran, and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

He became a nationally recognized anesth and published significant articles about patient care and racism in various medical journals. His (and two colleagues') 1963 article on the “Therapeutic Benefit of the Anesthesiologist–Patient Relationship” in the Journal of the American Medical Association is still cited today and is deemed a “classic” by the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

He is survived by Ellen, his wife and activist partner of more than 25 years, five children, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. A Baltimore memorial service will be August 27. Donations in his memory can be made to Physicians for Social Responsibility, Final Exit Network, or Veterans For Peace.

Senate VA Committee: Senate Must Act on Veterans First Act



Senator Johnny Isakson (above) is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  His office issued the following Thursday:

Thursday, June 23, 2016
Contact: Amanda Maddox (Isakson) 202-224-7777
Maria McElwain (Blumenthal) 202-224-6452

Senate VA Committee: Senate Must Act on Veterans First Act  
Bipartisan legislation passed committee by unanimous vote, would bring accountability reform to VA
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, respectively, along with other members of the committee, joined together on the Senate floor to urge fellow senators to allow a vote on the Veterans First Act, bipartisan legislation that will strengthen accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Last week, the VA announced that it would no longer use its expedited removal authority to hold VA executives accountable after the Justice Department decided not to defend a provision in current accountability law against a constitutional challenge from a VA executive who was fired in the Phoenix wait-time scandal.
The Veterans First Act, which has 44 Senate co-sponsors, is the only piece of accountability legislation that would withstand this constitutional challenge. The bill, which passed the Senate VA Committee unanimously, is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.
“Our veterans served and fought for us, risked their lives for us and in some cases some died for us. They deserve the respect, the treatment and benefits they were promised when they signed up for duty,” said Isakson. “I want to thank all members of the committee, and I want to thank the 44 members of the Senate who already cosponsored the Veterans First Act and ask the remaining 56 to be a part of it. We owe our veterans no less than our absolute commitment to match the commitment they made to us. It is time that veterans got the accountability for the benefits they’ve earned, the health care they deserve and the VA that means what it says when it says it will take care of the veterans of the United States.”
“We must seize this opportunity no matter which side of the aisle we may sit on to move this bill forward,” said Blumenthal. “We must keep faith with our veterans, leave no veteran behind, and make sure that we honor their service by fulfilling our obligation to do our job. Our job now is to make sure that we pass the Veterans First Act. I challenge my colleagues to pass this bill before the Fourth of July and to address the challenge of providing veterans what they have earned. This measure is bipartisan. No reason that merits it being stopped or blocked. And so I challenge my colleagues to move forward with this measure.”
“Secretary McDonald set a dangerous precedent by ignoring the law passed by Congress to hold VA employees accountable,” said U.S. Senator John Boozman, R-Ark. “This is why it’s even more imperative that the Senate pass the Veterans First Act. We need to ensure the VA has the tools—and the will—to ensure the small number of employees who abuse their positions do not undermine the great work being done by the vast majority of VA employees around the country.”
“Veterans in South Dakota – and across the entire country – continue to experience problems with health care delivery at the VA, including backlogs, long wait times and frequent billing errors,” said U.S. Senator Mike Rounds, R-S.D. “As we seek to address these issues within the entire VA system, accountability is as important as it has ever been. The Veterans First Act takes meaningful steps to hold the VA accountable and – in turn – improve care for our nation’s veterans, which is the most important priority of all.”
“We have to increase accountability at the VA,” said U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, R-N.C. “Yet, we are now hearing Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in consultation with the President, has decided not to defend The Veterans Choice Act against a constitutional challenge, and the VA has decided to no longer use its expedited removal authority to hold senior executives accountable. We need to get back to what we tried to accomplish in The Veterans Choice Act, fire people who are not doing their job, fire people who are being unethical, and fire people who are not putting veterans at the top of their list.”
“It is imperative that we restore the bond of trust between the VA and the veterans the VA serves because we all know that bond of trust has eroded,” said U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska. “A dangerous precedent has been set by the head of the VA and the Attorney General of the United States, in substituting the judgment of the Congress, and gutting the accountability provisions already signed into law by the President in 2014. It is a precedent that I don't think anyone in the U.S. Senate would agree with.  They must remember that the leadership of the VA works for our veterans, and when our veterans see people getting away with malfeasance and incorrect behavior, that trust is further eroded.  Passing legislation like the Veterans First Act is a step towards restoring that trust.”
“The VA’s problems are not budgetary or a matter of supply and demand, they are based on poor resource management and a lack of leadership to use the authorities that are in the best interest of veterans and the VA workforce,” said U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kan. “It is critical that the Veterans First Act becomes law to increase accountability for wrongdoers in the VA system. Veterans deserve a VA worthy of their service and sacrifice.”
Click here to watch the senators’ remarks.
Sharon Helman, the former director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, was fired in 2014 in the wake of the VA wait-time scandal. Helman sued for her job back, saying the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 is unconstitutional, partly because it does not allow executives to appeal to the full Merit Systems Protection Board, only to an administrative judge at the board.
The Justice Department announced that it is refusing to mount a defense against this claim by Helman, saying current law violates the Appointments Clause of the Constitution because the administrative judges are not presidentially appointed whereas members of the board are.
In the wake of that decision by the Justice Department, the VA last week informed the committee that the department would not use any of the accountability reforms established in the Veterans Choice Act to remove executives.
The Veterans First Act removes the Merit Systems Protection Board from the appeal process for senior executives altogether, avoiding this constitutionality challenge. The Veterans First Act passed the Senate VA Committee by unanimous vote and awaits action by the full Senate.
In addition to Isakson and Blumenthal, the Veterans First Act is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., John Boozman, R-Ark., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio., Richard Burr, R-N.C., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Robert Casey, D-Pa., Dan Coats, R-Ind., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Al Franken, D-Minn., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Dean Heller, R-Nev., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, John Hoeven, R-N.D., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Rob Portman, R-Ohio., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Jon Tester, D-Mont., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
The Veterans First Act is also supported by The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America, Student Veterans of America, Office of Special Counsel, Government Accountability Project, National Association of State Approving Agencies, National Guard Association of the U.S., Veterans Education Success, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), American Veterans (AMVETS), Project on Government Oversight, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs and Military Officers Association of America.
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 114th Congress.
Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate VA Committee since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the military as well as more than 750,000 veterans.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Iraq and silence

The (still ongoing) 'liberation' of Falluja has created thousands of more refugees in Iraq.

We badly need resources to expand number of camps for civilians fleeing Iraq's

Emma Graham-Harrison (GUARDIAN) notes, "The United Nations has warned that fighting against Islamic State in Iraq could force up to 2.3 million people from their homes this year, as the battle for Falluja grinds on days after Baghdad officially declared victory."

Changing topics . . .

  1. Where was a to oppose the Iraq War? To overturn Citizens United? To halt mass deportations? Stop drone bombings?

The Green Party could be a winner in the 2016 elections.  The right presidential candidate could help voter turnout and help with offices lower on the ticket.

I've endorsed Jill Stein.

That's what several e-mails say.

That's news to me.

My public comments have been that I wasn't going to vote for her after the disaster of 2012 (her campaign).

That's still my basic feeling.

I've noted that if she addresses Iraq, we'll try to note her.

She's not addressing it often enough to win my vote thus far.

I also will have no need to vote for her if she chooses the same running mate from 2012.

2012 was a losing ticket.

She needs to demonstrate that she's learned from 2012 to get my vote.

That means addressing Iraq.

That also means showing that she's not going to be the stooge she was in 2012.

In September of 2012, Tim Arango (NEW YORK TIMES) broke the news that Barack had sent a unit of US troops back into Iraq.  This was established via a sourced quote by the top US commander in Iraq at that time (he's now at West Point).  Mitt Romney and the Republicans were slamming Barack for ending the war in Iraq (that has never ended) and couldn't let go of their talking points.

When they should have.

Let's stop for a moment.  I don't want people working the public e-mail account to get stuck with a ton of e-mails "That was never reported!," etc.

From November 7, 2012's "Let the fun begin (Ava and C.I.):"

Lies about Iraq drove the 2008 election and they drove the 2012 election as well.

The country was transformed to the elephant in the room for 2012 that no one could be honest about.  President Barack Obama  lied that he'd 'ended' the Iraq War, he misled people into believing that all US troops had left Iraq, and he failed to inform Americans that he was negotiating to send even more US troops into Iraq.

While the uninspiring victory speech last night blended The Hollies "He's Not Heavy, He's My Brother" ("The road is long") with Jerry McGuire ("You've made me a better president"), it also made clear that the administration was on fumes even before the second term officially begins in January.

The administration is as empty as the media.  If you doubt that, September 26th, the New York Times' Tim Arango reported:

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.

September 26th it was in print.

Days later, October 3rd, Barack 'debated' Mitt RomneyAgain October 16thAgain October 22nd.

Not once did the moderators ever raise the issue.

If Barack's sitting before them and he's flat out lying to the American people, it's their job to ask.  They didn't do their job.  Nor did social menace Candy Crowley who was apparently dreaming of an all-you-can-eat buffet when Barack was babbling away before her about how he wouldn't allow more "troops in Iraq that would tie us down."  But that's exactly what he's currently negotiating.

Maybe Candy Crowley missed the New York Times article?  Maybe she spends all her time pleasuring herself to her version of porn: Cooking With Paula Deen Magazine?

That is possible.

But she was only one of the three moderators.  Bob Schieffer and Jim Lehrer also moderated.  Of course, they didn't foolishly self-present as a fact checker in the midst of the debate  nor did they hit the publicity circuit before the debate to talk about how they were going to show how it was done.

Poor Crowley, a heavy weight strutting into a non-competition will always look woefully misdressed.

Barack lied and Americans will face that or not.

You can find Ava and my criticism of Jill Stein in that.

The Republicans in Congress were furious with Romney (and Ava and I note that as well) for refusing to raise that issue in the campaign.

His campaign's position is that they had already attacked him for 'withdrawing' troops and it was a winning argument with the base.

Senate Republicans argued that this would chip into Barack's support -- publicizing his sending troops back in.

Especially since Barack said in the debates that he'd ended the war.

So that's why Romney didn't bring it up.

Want to explain why Jill didn't?

I don't know why.

I do know she criticized Barack lightly up until he lost a debate.

Then she dropped any and all criticism of him.

So that was a failed campaign.

She needs to demonstrate she's learned from it to get my vote.

And/or she needs to talk Iraq.

If she'd do major things on Iraq, I wouldn't just highlight her here, I'd endorse her here.

Even if she chose the same weak running mate.

Because Iraq is a very important issue.

The illegal war is now 13 years old.

It has consumed vast resources.

It has resulted in thousands of Americans being killed (many more injured) and well over a million Iraqis being killed (many more injured).

It is foreign policy, it is peace, it is human rights, it is War Crimes and the Iraq War is even more than that.

If she'd treat it as a serious topic, she could have my vote.

Topics not covered here.

Every day, there are a multitude of Iraq related topics that do not get covered here.  I'm hoping to note at least one Congressional hearing I attended this week in the next snapshot.

But there are also topics we're not going to touch.

A fake ass that we've called out repeatedly has been suspended by an aid agency as they conduct an investigation into whether or not he's aided ISIS.

I don't like the man, haven't since he lied in a hearing overseas (about the number of Jews in Baghdad -- he said in his testimony that it was zero, that was a lie) so we're going back to the mid 00s.

There is no news on him other than what I've put above in one sentence.

He's under investigation, he's not been charged with anything.

He may well be innocent.

Including him in a snapshot at this time for being under investigation would seem to me to be just cruel on my part and I'd only be doing so because I don't like him.  If he's charged with anything (he maintains he's innocent of any wrong doing), then we will note it.

The European Union.

If they're talking about Iraq, we note them.

The UK & the European Union?

 Liked 4,097 times
Brits continue their stupid spiral downward. Iraq War collaborator, privatized crappy trains, adopts US system of student debt, now Brexit.

What's sadder?

That Moore Tweeted that?

Or that 4,097 people (or 'people') liked it?

Michael Moore is an American citizen -- as am I.

In my view, it's not productive for me to insult a whole country of people.  I'll call out a government, no question.

But to insult the British and call them "stupid"?

Other than letting Moore feel good about himself, I don't see who that helps.

And Moore needs to feel good about himself -- clearly all the modern technology could still not make him a thin man and has only created saggy skin all over.

But maybe a daily affirmation recited before the mirror would be more helpful than his insulting an entire country of people?

Here's the other thing, what is it our business?

As Americans, what is it our business?

Is the United States in the European Union?

No, it's not.

So maybe we don't need to be pushy, loud mouth Americans -- our unfortunate stereotype -- on Twitter by presuming to comment on every event around the world?

Believe it or not, the world can -- and will -- go on without Americans standing in judgment on every national step a foreign country decides to take.

If someone's expertise of commentary is foreign relations or international relations, they might want to weigh in on the EU action -- from any country.

But Moore's not really a global expert.

It appears he hadn't fed his outrage quota for the day and was madly searching the internet for some topic -- any topic -- to spew on.

While it won't let him drop any pounds, hurling rage is healthier (for him) than hurling up food.  So good for Moore there; however, to the world spewed upon, it's not a pleasant experience.

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