Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, April 22, 2009.  Chaos and violence continue, the 'surge' continues Congress is informed, a Marine general fears being 'emasculated', the price of oil flucuates, and more. 
Yesterday Matthis Chiroux faced a military body.  Today he shares:
I stood before the Army. I looked a board of officers in the eyes, and I told them I thought they were sending people off to participate in war crimes. And what did they say? Get out of here, Sergeant, and keep your damn G.I. Bill!!!              
Indeed, folks! The Army awarded me a recommendation for a general discharge under honorable conditions from the Individual Ready Reserve for my refusal to deploy to Iraq last summer. This landmark decision means not only am I a free man, I'm free to continue school this fall with the "new" G.I. Bill that I earned while on active duty.           
Though this discharge is identical to the one I refused in exchange for having this hearing, I can now rest easy knowing I never submitted, I never backed down and the Army has heard my story.           
And not just my story, but the stories of those brave veterans at Winter Soldier and those who've participated in IVAW's Warrior Writers' program. Full texts of both books were submitted to the Army this morning, and I can only imagine the fun they're having transcribing them into the record.            
So that was the board finding and congratulations to Matthis Chiroux.  As noted yesterday, there is no change in his duty status yet.  What happens next is the board's record is complied and a legal review takes place.  Following that it's forwarded up the chain to, finally, the Commanding General of Human Resources Command.  The Commanding General will issue a determination and that should take place before the end of next month.
Monica Landeros: Well, Laura [Smith], a spokesperson with the U.S. Army tells me Kristoffer Walker has been demoted several ranks from Specialist to Private, but that's just part of his punishment. The Army also said Walker will be fined in the form of docked pay. For two months he will get half of his usual paycheck. In addition, he will also be fined for a -- confined to an Army base for 45 days. That means he can't leave the base and might even have additional duties during that time. Though Army officials do not know when that confinement will actually start. That's because right now, Walker is on medical leave from Iraq though officials won't give details on his medical condition. Once he is healthy, Army officials said he will begin the base confinement. Now we were unable to speak to Kristoffer Walker today though his mother tells us her son was aware of the severity of his absence and that he was ready for any consequences handed down.
That was in Monday's snapshot but the "n" was left out of Monica Landeros' name.  My apologies.
Today the US Senate was where Marine General James F. Amos blurted out fears of 'emasculation'.   Before that high drama came took place, the US Senate's Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support had to be called to order and chair Evan Bayh did that noting, "The purpose of today's hearing is to address the growing strain placed upon our Army and Marine Corps.  We will receive testimony on the current readiness of ground forces with respect to deployed, deploying and non-deployed units.  We will also discuss the Army and the Marine Corps' abilitiy to provide forces to meet combat commanders' requirements and to respond to unforseen contingincies.  We're particularly interested in your assessment of the risks resulting from the continued committment of combat forces to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Additionally the subcommittee would be interested to know your views on the current and projected readiness reporting systems used by the Department of Defense.  Over the last several years, we have observed total force readiness decline as a result of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere around the globe."
The witnesses appearing before the Subcommittee were the Army's General Peter W. Chiarelli and the Marines' General Amos.  A surprise witness was Ranking Republican subcommittee member Richard Burr's tie which was a ghastly pink thing with silver and blue stripes that appeared to have just surfaced on his closet floor that morning after having gone underground at some point in 1975.  The tie formed no words but somehow spoke volumes and may, in fact, have warded off Democrats which would explain why so few were present.  On the Republican side, four serve on the committee and three showed up: Senators Burr, James Inhofe and John Thune took part in the hearing.  Six Democrats are assigned to the committee.  Bayh was present.  We'll note a portion of Senator Roland Burris' opening remarks since he also showed up for the hearing.
Roland Burris: . . . I just want to thank our military personnel for all that they do for us, I will have a few questions.  But my favorite saying -- and I want the military personnel to hear this statement: We are able to do what we do in America because of what you do across the world for our protection.  Just keep that in mind.  And we appreciate your committment, your effort and your dedication to making us the strongest country in the world.  And every time I see one of you, whether you're a private or a four-star general, I saulte each and every one of you.  
Democratic Senator Mark Udall joined the subcomittee near the end of the hearing (last third).  Dropping back to the start, Gen Chiarelli paraphrased and summarized his [PDF format warning] prepared statement and key point was that the army will respond on the budget when its released by the White House.  Gen Amos read his [PDF format warning] prepared statement which used phrases such as "the Long War". 
Evan Bayh (to Gen Chiarelli): You mentioned that we're consuming our readiness as fast as fast as we're rebuilding it, I think that's what you said what must be done to change that?  So that we're no longer just kind of treading water, what needs to be done to actually improve our readiness so that we're not in this constant state of tearing it up while  building it without really making long term progress?
Peter Chiarelli: Well two things I'd point out, senator, would be first of all we need to complete the grow the army plan and as you know that goes to the 45 brigade mark.  We are doing that.
Evan Bayh: That would be the top of your priority list?
Peter Chiarelli:  That would -- that is very, very important that we grow those 45 brigades because this is a question of supply and demand.  I can't control the demand.  And the demand right now shows that I have 26 combat brigades that are currently deployed.  I have a total of 18 active component brigades and 8 reserve component brigades. And when I have that many brigades deployed, I have what's called friction.  Best explained by kind of a Navy analogy that -- when you have a --
Evan Bayh: This is a first.  The army referencing the Navy.

Peter Chiarelli: This is a first.  But I have a rough time explaining friction if I don't call on my other services to help me out.  When you have an air craft carrier that's sitting in the middle of the Persian Gulf and you want to go ahead and relieve it an air craft carrier casts off from some place in the United States and at that particular point and time you've got two air craft carriers doing the job of one.  And the same thing happens with Army brigades.  When I have 26 deployed, I've got normally six that are also doing another job so that total number goes up to 32.
Chiarelli explained this effects dwell time/reset time with soldiers spending 12 months deployed "and 1.3 years back at home."  He also raised the issue of the 'surge,' "The surge for the United States Amry is not over.  We on't get our last combat brigade off of a 15 month deployment until June of this year and I won't get my last combat service support or combat support unit back off a 15 month deployment until September."
He declared the Army had met their recruitment goals, in fact, "we even went a little bit over."  Sunday Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reported that the US Army was now able to be "more selective" as a result of the (bad) economy in recruiting which has allowed them to cease "accepting felons and recent drug abusers into its ranks".  Tyson added, "The Army annually granted hundreds of waivers for felons in recent years, reaching a high of 511 in 2007.  Now, that category of waiver, for 'adult major misconduct,' is closed" according to Brig Gen Joseph Anderson.  
You can't have a Congressional hearing these days without someone saying "Robbing Peter to pay Paul" and today that phrase was said by Bayh.  This took place in his exchange with Gen Amos.  Bayh noted that when people hear that the non-deployed forces aren't ready, they wonder "just how not ready are the non-deployed forces?"
"Sir, I think it would take probably several months I think it would take Global Sourcing for the Marine Corps [removing Marines from Western Pacific assignments]."  The Congress has doled out $12 billion thus far for reset costs and Amos stated that the estimate of the total reset costs was $20 billion. 
Senator Burr wanted to know about contractors and Amos referenced Honeywell in Iraq and how 100 of their "workers do the triage, they do the preliminary mainteance" on equpiment and vehicles and determine whether or not something can be salvaged.  Senator Burris also wanted to know about contractors, the ones employed in the US to inspect the equipment, "determining that it's functional."  Gen Amos replied that they not only ensure that and that "if you pick your nicest car that you have confidence in when you buy it, that's how" reliable the equipment that passes inspection and is sent out to the field is.
Senator Bayh made the point in the last third of the hearing, to General Chiarelli that, "I think the American people have a right to know that if something else comes along, we're going to have a hard time meeting the national security threat to the country, we'll do our best but it puts you folks in a very difficult position."  Bayh brought Gen Amos into this topic and Amos agreed.
James Amos:  I think it would be very challenging.  Difficult, challenging, for me mean they mean the same thing.  I don't think there's any question about it.  You know this is not -- uh -uh
Evan Bayh: It's not an abstract.  This is not an abstract problem we're dealing with here.
James Amos: It's not, sir. I think it's a very worthwhile question and in the case of the Marine Corps if something happened in Iran or Korea -- North Korea -- we would end up freezing the forces in place.  You'd freeze the ones you had in Iraq and Afghanistan, hold them in there, and as we said earlier on in the testimony, you would bring together -- you would build a fighting force that you could deploy but you'd have to train it, you'd have to figure out how you're going to get the equipment.  We would, in the case of the Marine Corps, would emasculate all of our strategic reserves which are in our Maritime Preposition Squardons  whatever's left up in the caves of Norway.  We would pull all of that together and uh and deploy that force but we'd have to train it, we'd have to figure out what we'd need to do in that environment that we're not training people for right now because we're predominately a counter-insurgency, a regular warfare  focus Marine Corps right now.  So all those other skills -- combined armed fire manuever forcefible entry -- those things -- we'd have to figure out, we'd have to figure out, "Okay, what do we need to do for this new -- this new contingency?  Is it possible?"  The answer is "yes." [General Chiarelli begins nodding his head in agreement.] Your military, both your Army and your Marine Corps and Navy and Air Force would come together and we'd make it happen just like we did prior to the onset of Korea.  We did exactly the same thing.  But it would be painful.
Even Bayh: As I recall in the beginning stages of Korea, it also meant that our performance suffered because we were just trying to make the best of a bad situation. And we shouldn't consciously put ourselves in that spot is that --
James Amos: Sir, that is absolutely correct.  In the case, just instructive for me as I think about this, we went -- after the president and the Secretary of War -- after WWII and the great successes of WWII, emasculated the Marine Corps, even went public and said we don't even we're not even sure we need a Marine Corps anymore and for certain we'll never do an amphibious operation and yet in 1949 we took a Fifth Marine regiment from the West Coast which was down to about 15 to 20% of what it should have been cobbled together Marines from the East Coast, all across, brought 'em all together to Fifth Marine, blew that balloon up, trained 'em and then ships together and made the largest amphibious operation and certainly the most difficult one we've ever done shortly after so, sir, I think your concerns are very valid.
Evan Bayh: When a Marine uses a term like emasculate the situation must be fairly dire.
James Amos: I just -- well I just think it certainly was then.
But he didn't just use it when speaking of Korea back in 1949.  He was speaking of today as well.  Which doesn't make him correct.  He may just suffer from castration fears.  He also seems to forget that if the US used the military only when attacked, the costs would be much less.  (And many would argue that a standing military isn't even used -- however, without one, what would US presidents have to play with?) 
Turning to the topic of oil, Julianne Pepitone and Ben Rooney (CNN) reported this morning that oil has fallen from $48 per barrel to $45.88. This as Alsumaria explains Iraq "hopes to expand [its navy] by a third within two years to number 2,500 and expand its small fleet in the process. near the southern city of Basra" in order to protect their oil ports. Iraq's neighbor Iran wants the price of oil per barrel to double. Press TV reports Iran wants higher priced oil -- $80 per barrel -- and quotes Petroleum Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari stating, "Our aim is to increase crude oil price from the current $40-$50 per barrel to $80 a barrel."  Which makes the oil-rich city of Kirkuk even more desirable to many surrounding players.  The Kurdistan Regional Government believes Kirkuk belongs to their region and the centeral government in Baghdad claims it does not. For months, the UN, led by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative for Iraq Staffan de Mistura, has been attempting to broker potential resolutions and will release their report today. Reuters provides background on Kirkuk here and notes that the Iraqi government has been handed the report.  Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) explains the UN delivered "four options" (none of which have to be follwed) which have been seen by "Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government" and none of which recommend splitting up Kirkuk.  Missy Ryan (Reuters) notes that, along with Kirkuk, the United Nations has made recommendations for "14 other contested areas in northern Iraq".  Citing an unnamed UN official, Ryan states, "Each option put forward by the United Nations would require a political agreement -- a monumental task -- followed by a confirmatory referendum."
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Nineveh Province car bombing in which a man killed himself in the bombing and two Peshmerga were injured in the attack as was one civilian who was walking by and was shot by Peshmerga, a Mosul roadside bombing left one Iraq soldier injured, a grenade attack on a Baghdad police chckpoint which claimed the life of 1 police officer, left another wounded and also injured two civilians, and a Salahuddin Province suicide bomber killed "himself among a crowd of prayers at Al-Khulafa mosque" and also took 5 other lives and left sixteen people injured.
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report 1 person shot dead in Mosul, Tariq Mustafa ("employee of Kirkuk municipality") was shot dead in Kirkuk
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report Kirkuk Judge Fayadh Yaseen was kidnapped "as he was leaving his home" in Kirkuk.
Friday the US military announced: "AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq - A Multi National Force -West Marine died as the result of a non-combat related incident here April 16. The Marine's name is being withheld pending next-of-kin notification and release by the Department of Defense. The incident is under investigation." Yesterday the Department of Defense identifed the fallen: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lance Cpl. Ray A. Spencer II, 20, of Ridgecrest, Calif., died April 16 as a result of a non-hostile incident in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. The incident is currently under investigation." The Honolulu Star-Bulletin explains that he had previously served in Iraq for seven months beginning in August of 2007 and that Ray Spencer II's "awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, according to the Marines." KITV News adds that Spencer's second tour of duty in Iraq began "this month."

Betsy Lambert, Bakersfield's Eyewitness News (link has text and video) explains
Ray Spencer II attended Burrough High School ("2006 graduate") and the school "will be holding a memorial for Spencer on Thursday at the school during the lunch hour." Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) notes, "Spencer was the fifth serviceman with Hawaii ties to have died in a 'non-combat-related incident' this year. The Pentagon generally does not release details of these types of incidents." He also notes that Ray Spencer II's body is set to return to the US Sunday night (at Dover Air Force Base). Steven Mayer (Bakersfield Californian) quotes widow Athena Spencer stating "When I went to the door, I knew" and that the military "told us probably as much as they've told you. It was on base, so it wasn't combat." Mayer adds:

Through her tears and confusion, she first thought it was some kind of terrible joke.           
"Anthony," as she called her husband, had dreamed of joining the Marines since he was a little boy.                 
Not long before his death, he sent his wife a bouquet of white lilies for Easter.

Dan Nakaso (Honolulu Advertiser) explains that Athena Spencer's husband "was shot in the chest and killed Thursday while on base in Anbar province".  Monday saw the burial of William Bradley Blanton.  "With full military honors," Robert Lee Long (Desoto Times Tribune) explains.  Blanton was set "to leave next week for Camp Shelby and then Iraq" when he "died in a one-car accident near Tunica after his vehicle ran off the roadway." Robert Staley died over the weekend.  Winston-Salem News reports (link has text and video) the funeral for the 39-year-old police officer took place today.  He was set "to leave this week for his first deployment to Iraq with the National Guard"; however, he was hit by a truck while on his motorcyle.
Pulling this from the April 13th snapshot because of a funeral tomorrow:
Sunday the 5 US soldiers killed on Friday arrived at Dover Air Force Base. Jeff Montgomery (Delaware's News Journal) observes, "It was the heaviest loss of American lives in Iraq in 13 months, and the largest number of casualties returned to America in full sight of the public since the Defense Department opened the process to news coverage last week, after a 18-year blackout."
The Defense Dept identified the five as: "Staff Sgt. Gary L. Woods Jr., 24, of Lebanon Junction, Ky., Staff Sgt. Bryan E. Hall, 32, of Elk Grove, Calif., Sgt. Edward W. Forrest Jr., 25, of St. Louis, Mo., Cpl. Jason G. Pautsch, 20, of Davenport, Iowa, and PV2 Bryce E. Gautier, 22, of Cypress, Calif." Sheryl Edelen (Courier-Journal) reports on Gary L. Woods Jr., "Woods' father, Gary Woods St., said that his son, who went by his middle name, Lee, was a talented musician who sang and played the trombone, drums, piano and guitar while a student at Bullitt Central High School. He was also a member of the school's football team. But after finding satisifation in ROTC classes, his son entered the military after high school, he said." Bob White (Lebanon Junction News Enterprise) adds, "Woods is surived by his parents, siblings and a wife, Christie, his father said." Tony Bizjak (Sacramento Bee) reports on Bryan Edward Hall, "Hall, 32, had served in the military for 14 years and had been deployed in Iraq since September. . . . Hall had received three Army commendation medals, according to military records, as well as several Army achievement, good conduct and war on terrorism medals." Dave Marquis (Sacramento's quotes Debbie Lords, who is a neighbor of the Bryan Edward Hall's parents, stating, "I don't know what I'm thinking. I just really feel for John and Betty right now. It was their oldest son, their oldest child." Paul Hampel (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) reports on Edward Forrest Jr., "Forrest was based at Fort Carson in Colorado and lived near the base with his wife and two sons, ages 2 and one month. Forrest was a 2003 graduate of Rockwood Summit High School. He was on his third tour of duty in Iraq." His sister Melissa Forrest-Pliner tells Hampel, "I asked him not to re-enlist. I told him I didn't want him to be a hero. I just wanted him to be my brother." South County Times adds, "In high school, Sgt. Forrest, known as 'Eddie,' was a long distance runner on the track team, and was also on the wrestling team" and quotes his coach Rolland Garrison stating, "He was a very enthusiastic member of the track and field program here at Rockwood Summit. He was a very good kid with a great smile." Molly Hottle (Des Monies Register) reports on Jason Graham Pautsch, "David Pautsch was informed of his son's death Friday night, just 12 hours after the two had spoken on the phone. 'He believed n what he was doing,' David Pautsch said. 'This is what he wanted to do'." Nicole Murphy (WAQD, link has text and video) spoke with David Pautsch who explained the call he received, "'On behalf of the Secretary of the Army I just want to let you know, give our condolences and notify you that your son was killed in Mosul." Pautsch continues, "You're stunned and you're shocked and you find it hard to believe that it could actually be happening but then it seeps and that's when the emotions hit." Pautsch goes on to explain that he believes his son was protecting the US from the "terrorists" in Iraq and he also shares, "I'm thrilled for Jason that he's in heaven." Eugene W. Fields (Orange County Register) reports on Bryce E. Gautier, "Gauier, a medic, joined the Army in January of 2008 and had been in Iraq since January of this year, according to Army documents. He received the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Gautier graduated in 2005 from Rancho Alamitos High in Garden Grove, according to school district spokesman Alan Trudell." Tom Roeder and Maria St. Louis-Sanchez (Colorado Springs Gazette) note Gauier's MySpace page and add, "His sense of humor is evident from a posting on the site, which Gautier last updated three days before his death. 'Winners make the rules, losers just follow them,' Gautier wrote. 'In the Army now.' Gautier's brother, Even, left a simple eulogy on his Web page: 'My brother Bryce was one of the American soldiers killed in the suicide bombing in Iraq this morning. I love you bro. I will miss you'."

That was April 13th's snapshot.  CBS 13 reports that Brian Edward Hall's funeral will be Thursday: "The route of the procession will begin at the Sacramento Executive Airport, and will go to Highway 99, head southbound to Elk Grove Boulevard, and will end at the Elk Grove Funeral Chapel at 9101 Elk Grove Boulevard." KCRA notes, "His family is asking members of the community to show their support for the fallen soldier by lining the route." Jason Kobely ( -- link has text and video) reports that Brian Edward Hall's body arrived at Sacramento's Executive Airport yesterday and was greeted by "hundreds of mourners." Kobely quotes Kristi Hall, Brian's sister, stating, "My brother loved his job. He was proud of his job everyday. He never boasted about his accomplishments, or was arrogant. He did his job, and when he was done with his job, he came home and was a father, and a husband . . . and a son and a brother."  The Bellingham Herald notes that Melloney Ward attended the funeral of her son Bryce Gautier today and quotes her stating, "He was just a kind and loving young man.  He had a good heart."  Jason Pauch's funeral was yesterday and Erin Jordan (Des Monines Register) notes that Iowa Governor Chet Culver attended the funeral and told the family, "Although no one will ever truly know your pain, you're not alone"  while his older brother Jared spoke of their time stationed at Fort Benning together.  Chris Minor (WQAD -- link has text plus video of Jason's sister Jenna remembering him) adds that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn also attended the hearing and spoke calling Jason Paucsh "a genuine hero".  Barb Ickes (Quad City Times) explains she rode in the procession with Police Captain Dave Struckman:
We were on 53rd Street when we passed four men in matching green T-shirts, pouring a concrete sidewalk. They were sweating, and their cement needed their attention. But they all stopped what they were doing. They turned to the approaching hearse and placed their dirty hands over their hearts.   
The somber expressions on the working men's faces made me cry, and I turned to Struckman to say I was sorry for going on the way I was. And I realized he was crying, too.     
"How do you keep doing this, Captain?" I asked.      
"Thank God for sunglasses," he answered.   
WQAD also notes that Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba declared today Jason Pautsh Day.
Moving over to "If you're going to make an assertion about a book, you need to have read it."  Either Vijay Prashad didn't read the book or he lies to readers at CounterPunch:
A new book by The Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks, The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008, claims that the great victory in Iraq is not far and that the credit for it should go to the Surge that began in 2007.  This sort of account provides comfort that Obama's gradual withdrawal will now end what should never have begun in the first place.
That is a complete distortion of Ricks' book and the bad column has Vijay Prashad's name on it so he's either STUPID or a LIAR.  Ricks argues no such thing.  Ricks does believe -- in the book -- that the Iraq War is going to continue for many, many years (past 2012).  He writes (and speaks) of the various phases the Iraq War has gone through thus far.  Vijay may believe the war is winding down but don't pin that on Thomas E. Ricks who wrote no such thing.  The 'surge' distortion Vijay's pimping (like Tom Hayden before him) most likely is based on Joan Walsh's uninformed review.  Joan's "like a staw in the wind" and needed to get 'on board' with the Iraq War now that Barack was in the White House.  Lazy Asses like Hayden and Vijay don't bother to read.  It's too much trouble for them.  So they scan a few reviews and then pontificate in loud voices pretending that they're informed.  Vijay Prashad discredits his entire column by revealing either how igorant or how deceptive he is.  His column has an interesting theme and it's too bad that, throughout it, his skills and information gathering are so damn weak that they make his the most laughable column of the week thus far. 
Example: Prashad writes: "On February 27, Obama made a cautious statement about drawndown from Iraq, promising to remove 142,000 troops and to end all combat operations by August 31, 2010."  No, he did not.  Is Prashad trying to lie?  Is he careless?  Is he really that stupid?  Barack didn't promise to remove 142,000 troops by August 31, 2010.   The 'promise' is meaningless but, regardless, he didn't give the deadline for the removal of 142,000 US troops as August 31, 2010.  And that 'promise' is meaningless.  Barack laid the groundwork to weasel out on any draw down (when someone spells it "drawdown" they're doing the White House's bidding) in 2007, as Kat noted last night.  He has repeatedly stated, for two years now, that he will send US troops back into Iraq in the midst of a 'withdrawal' if 'conditions on the ground' necessitate it.  While offering pretty words on 'withdrawal' (and avoiding tell his adulation rallies about the fine prints), Barack still refused to promise all US troops would be out by the end of 2012 if he was elected president in 2008.  Idiots like Vijay need to find a tutor who will assist them in the heavy lifting of thinking.  When presenting himself as the end-the-war candidate, he refused to promise all US troops would be out in 2012.  At the same time, while courting War Hawks like Michael Gordon in the press, Barack repeatedly insisted he would send troops back in if conditions on the ground changed.  Put it together.  Vijay can't. He tired himself out too much last year with mind reading (which apparently, for Vijay, beats book reading).
If Vijay didn't write the worst column thus far this week, it's only because Pledged Delegate for Barack Obama surfaced.  Normy Solomon, slither on down, spineless.  Barack consort and, yes, Pledged Delegate shows up around the web (here for Dissident Voice) with more useless garbage.  The words Normy's looking for are, "I apologize for WHORING  myself for Barack. I hope that everyone, including the Iraqi people, can forgive me.  I feel great shame for promoting a War Hawk."  Until he can say those words, Norman Solomon looks (and acts) more and more like Norman Bates.  And it takes a lot of crazy for the Normy (who spent the eighties and nineties calling out the likes of Michael Kinsley repeatedly for the claim that if both sides are calling you out you must be doing something right)  to declare that there's a 'middle path' for dealing with a War Hawk.  Read the garbage and grasp that Norman never pushed to let George W. Bush off the hook, never blamed the continuations of wars on the American people while Bush was in the White House.  Norman's an embarrassment.  He's like an Old Queen who thinks he's just a belly shirt and a blonde wig away from being Britney Spears.  (Or maybe, like the other Norman,  he wants to dress up as Mother?)  Doesn't matter.  He bores us with 675 words allegedly about the war . . . But never about Iraq.  That was hasn't ended just because sex-starved cowards like Norman don't want to call their object de lust out.  Grow the hell up, Norman, you're about to the cross the point of no return.  (Not unlike you know who -- who lost his newspaper job because of the scene he made with his much younger trick who wanted him to bark in the hotel hallway, in his underwear, like a dog.)
Lastly, Women's Voices, Women's Votes president Page S. Gardner notes:
Women didn't cause this economic crisis, but we sure are paying the price for the banks' mistakes.  Many of us have lost our jobs - in fact, unmarried women faced a national unemployment rate of 9.6% in March 2009, compared to the rate of 8.5% for Americans as a whole (1).  We are losing our healthcare coverage.  And our pay still lags behind that of men.  

However, many CEOs of the biggest banks, which helped create this crisis, have not been held accountable for the mess that they helped create.  One example is Ken Lewis of Bank of America.           

Bank of America, one of the biggest banks in America, took $45 billion in taxpayer bailouts, which means that we taxpayers have a big stake in that bank (2).  So Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a big national union, and other progressive groups are forming a huge coalition to demand that Bank of America take action and fire Ken Lewis.                 

Sign a proxy card demanding that Ken Lewis be fired, and that Bank of America support a fair finance system for us all.                       

Ken Lewis gave billions in bonuses for top bank executives, while announcing huge layoffs for employees, and taking a $35 million salary for himself over the past two years - even though he and his fellow executives had run Bank of America into the ground (3). If we convince Bank of America to fire Lewis and change its policies, we will be sending a message to Wall Street that women expect banks to use taxpayer money to help repair the economy, not to enrich the top management.                              

Sign the petition to fire Bank of America's CEO and set a new direction for Wall Street.