Sunday, December 11, 2011

Truest statement of the week

Both Bush and Obama have claimed the right to kill and capture alleged terrorists anywhere in the world or hold them in military detention indefinitely -- ie Guantanamo.
In their view the world is a battlefield -- not just Afghanistan and Iraq.
Their claim is that alleged terrorists -- at least those related to al Qaeda, Taliban and associated forces (whatever that means) are at war with the United States and that the US can make war on them which includes capturing them and holding them forever without trial -- no matter where they are: Yemen, Somalia, United Kingdom, South America or anywhere.
The determination of whom to capture and/or kill is made by the President without any court.
Bush and Obama have always claimed that US citizens can be so treated as well -- so that is why under Obama we saw the killing of an American citizen by a drone in Yemen -- al-alwaki.
Both Presidents have also acted as if they can kill and capture alleged terrorists that have no relationship to 9/11 -- the new law confirms this practice.

-- Michael Ratner, "Blame Obama First -- Then Congress for Not Ending Guantanamo and Its Underlying Practices" (Just Left); Michael Ratner hosts Law and Disorder Radio, a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, with fellow attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith.

Truest statement of the week II

However, what kind of democracy has resulted after eight years of U.S. occupation? Once seen as weak, Prime Minister Maliki has concentrated power in his hands. He turned a minority parliamentary position into the premiership and refused to honor a power-sharing agreement his chief opponent.
The International Crisis Group pointed to Maliki's expansion of government control over supposedly independent agencies tasked with overseeing the government. Worse, reported Yochi Dreazen: "Maliki has refused to appoint either a permanent defense minister or an interior minister, keeping Iraq's U.S.-trained armed forces and intelligence services under his sole control. He has also taken direct command of the ostensibly neutral 150,000 Iraqi troops stationed in Baghdad, using them to arrest rival politicians, human-rights activists, and journalists."
Maliki brutally suppressed anti-government demonstrations coinciding with the Arab Spring, targeted human rights activists, and cracked down on the media, having critics of his regime arrested and tortured. A number of journalists have been murdered, with government agents the chief suspects. Ghada al-Amely of the al-Mada newspaper told National Journal: "We feel just as scared as we did during Saddam's time." Maliki recently used improbable rumors of a Baathist coup to arrest more than 600 former members of the Baath party, including academics.
Washington has said little. Indeed, Wikileaks captured America's ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, observing that "It is in the interests of the U.S. to see that process of strengthened central authority continue." So much for democracy.

-- Doug Bandow, "U.S. Should Leave Iraq -- for Good" (Huffington Post).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another late Sunday.

First up, we thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with?

Michael Ratner was a truest choice when we saw his column last Monday. Only more so when Ava and C.I. finished their TV article.
Doug Bandow also earned a truest and did so demonstrating that the truth can be told about Nouri.

Barack's got a plan for this week. A captive audience which will be ordered to applaud him at Fort Bragg as Barry pretends he has ended the US occupation of Iraq.

Ava and C.I. asked, "Can we cover something we caught on public access?" Sure, we all said. I (Jim) did ask what it was? A film starring Naomi Wolf. I knew it would be a must-read and it is.
Dona's been trying to get us to do a piece on Archie comics for some time. She did a very rough draft of this the week of Thanksgiving and passed it on to Ava and C.I. to use if needed. As they noted, they didn't want to finish it out ("poach it"). So Dona finished it up and we offer it now.

He really isn't and we'll probably hit on this next week as well.

You can hate a person. That's fine. But to stereotype an entire people? That's bigotry. And we're not in the mood for it.

This came in to the public account and we're happy to note it.

An important move by the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and the Ranking Member.

A repost from Workers World.

Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.


-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: The victory lap?

The US-occupation of Iraq does not end until the US is out of Iraq and, though members of the Cult of St. Barack kid themselves, the Iraq War does not end as 2011 draws to a close. US Fortress Baghdad is not an embassy. It's also not as safe or secure as the administration might hope which could lead to some 'messy' moments for Barack Obama should the population turn hostile.


But all that awaits him, right now, he's gearing up for more spin, planning to speak to a cative audience at Fort Bragg this week. But first comes the big meet-up. Margaret Talev and Viola Gienger (Bloomberg News) explain, "President Barack Obama is focusing on the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq by year's end, even as his administration continues talks behind the scenes about the future American role there."

Whether they get more troops as 'trainers' -- and whether they do so in 2011 or 2012 -- the occupation of Iraq by the United States continues.

Despite the fact that Iraqis want the US out.

And not just the average Iraqi but the pawns the US installed.

The White House is about to waste $500 million to 'train' Iraqi police -- 'training' that's been going on for eight years and already cost billions -- and the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior doesn't even want it.

This was again addressed by Congress last week in Wednesday's the House Oversight and Government Reform's National Security Subcommittee hearing:

US House Rep Raul Labrador: Mr. Bowen, right now the police development program is the administration's largest foreign aid project for Iraq going forward. And there's some evidence that the Iraqis don't even want this program. So have you or your staff asked the Iraqi police forces if they need the $500 million a year program that the Obama administration is planning to spend on the police development program?

SIGIR Stuart Bowen: Yes, Mr. Labrador, we have and we reported on that in our last quarterly report noting that the senior official at the Ministry of the Interior, Senior Deputy Minister al-Assadi said "he didn't see any real benefit from the police development program." I addressed that with him when I was in Iraq a couple of weeks ago and I asked him, "Did you mean what you said?" And his response was, "Well we welcome any support that the American government will provide us; however, my statements as quoted in your recent quarterly are still posted on my website."

US House Rep Raul Labrador: So why is the administration still spending $500 million a year to provide this program?

SIGIR Stuart Bowen: There's a belief that security continues to be a challenge in Iraq, a well founded belief, I might add, given the events of this week. Killings of pilgrims again, on the way to Najaf, on the eve of Ashura. The focus though on trying to address those problems has been a widely scattered, high level training program involving about 150 police trainers who, as we've seen again this week, are going to have a very difficult time moving about the country.

Not only does the Ministry of the Interior not want it, but there is no Minister of Interior. The cabinet remains headless. In a year's time, Nouri al-Maliki has been unable/unwilling to name a head. But the White House is about to fork over $500 million to a ministry that doesn't even have leadership?

As Barack tries to paint a victory lap, grasp that US forces leaving Iraq right now are doing so after the US government made the decision to pay off tribal sheiks to protect the departing. The US-led, illegal war has turned Iraq into a country of orphans and widows. It's driven the US nto crippling economic debt.

But watch Barack try to make that victory lap as he attempts to pretend that the US occupation of Iraq ends.

TV: The Nutty Airhead

When Naomi Wolf starts talking about being in "a desperate heat," you know you've either got to get her fixed or prepare to roll with laughter. Wednesday night/Thursday morning, we chose the latter. And we needed a good laugh. We'd sat through a very disturbing Congressional hearing about the lack of accountability in war spending [see "Iraq snapshot" and "Assault on transparency (Ava)"] and had hoped to then go on to a hearing about Camp Ashraf but we were barking like dogs (coughing), running a high fever and still not over a nasty cold. We managed to speak to three groups before collapsing on a sofa and staring in silence for about a half hour. At which point, we turned on the TV and surfed. There on public access, we found Naomi.


The End of America is a 2008 documentary "starring Naomi Wolf" -- as it says on the film's home page. Actually, "documentary" may be too weighty a term. The film's website just notes it as "A film by Annie Sundberg & Ricki Stern." The film is basically Naomi giving a lecture based on her book The End of America (covered at this site in 2008) with some cable TV footage mixed in.

Two things stand out watching the movie today. The first is how little any of this mattered to most of the people appearing in the film. Michael Ratner? He's still raising the issues everyone in the film insists they're concerned about. Maybe that's why it's "a film" "starring Naomi Wolf"? Because outside of Michael and one Center for Constitutional Rights attorney, every one else is acting?

Maybe so. It's certainly true that issues like Guantanamo and signing statements and restoring the Constitution and civil liberties no longer seem to matter. The film advertises Naomi's organization that was committed to the battle of our lives, the American Freedom Campaign. They last updated in early 2009.

Was it all just part of an election campaign?

An attempt to hustle voters?

The same con game both major parties have played for years?

What it wasn't was solid information.

That's clear when Joe Pesci look-alike Dave Zirin comes on camera and explains about spying on Americans, "That's the thing that's so upsetting about this -- this idea that some people deserve to be watched and some people don't."

Okay, we can get on board with half of that. We agree that American citizens don't "deserve to be watched." But then crazy ass Dave wants to whine about the government feeling that "some people don't" deserve to be spied upon? What the hell is that hairy back trying to say?

What the hell are most of them trying to say?

Valerie Plame is the CIA agent the Bush administration outed to get back at her husband, former US-diplomat Joseph Wilson, who wrote "What I Didn't Find In Africa" disputing the administration's claim that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase yellow cake uranium. That much we understand (and understood before seeing the film). Where we get confused is when notorious sexist and simpleton Bill Maher's pops up in a clip from his bad TV show asking in that whiney voice, "That's not treason anymore? Outing a spy?"

We're sorry, when was that treason?

Treason's a pretty serious charge, are the film makers unaware of that?

Philip Agee outed CIA agents. It wasn't treason. He was never charged with treason. It's illegal for a government worker to out a CIA agent (as a response to Agee's work). That's about it.

Treason, repeating, is a very serious charge.

Other than the fact that Naomi's frequently a guest of Bill Maher's, there was no reason to include him in the film and his remarks were neither factual nor accurate.

Not that Naomi would ever know herself.

This is the woman who, after all, is filmed telling an audience that we are headed to secret trials, show trials and that, "In an open society of due process, right, that means that they have to be able to accuse you of something that you've done!"

The hysteria quotient is appalling. Yes, we may be headed towards secret trials. We're probably closer to that now than we were in 2008 when the film was made. However, due process does not mean "that they have to be able to accuse you of something that you've done" -- with or without an exclamation point. You can be accused of anything -- whether you've done it or not. By Naomi's 'understanding' of the law, you can only be accused of what you've done -- therefore, all defendants are guilty!

Hell, that should save a lot of money spent on court fees. Send all the juries home, judges too, everyone accused is guilty . . . as Naomi Wolf 'understands' the law.

Her 'understanding' is frequently questionable. At another point, onstage, she asks, "Why should we care that Brown people with Muslim names are being tortured?" Jose Padilla is a Muslim name? (Padilla is a Latino who converted to Islam.) David Hicks is a Muslim name?

No one's denying that Muslims have been targeted and have often been the sole targets; however, they're not the only ones and if her point is how it starts with one group and quickly spreads, then her ignorance (real or put-on) only results in her making a weaker argument than she could have.

So instead of noting that it's already spread, she insists, "We should care for our own sakes because of the records of history."

History. She intones that word repeatedly, almost as though it's a magical incantation, throughout the film. "All you have to do is read history to know . . ." and "I have read history" are only some of its appearances. You quickly realize she's drunk on a little history and, like most new addicts, eager to proselytize.

A pity her recent efforts at learning history didn't include reading any Gore Vidal. That might have, for example, prevented her embarrassing section on posse comitatus. And, from Gore, she might also have learned about previous lists. But, honestly, we'd assume any adult with a political background would be aware of past lists.

Instead we get Naomi ranting about the TSA list, "I'm on the list? How was Nazi Germany able to round up so many Jews so quickly? Because they had mechanzied the list . . ."

Naomi was a college student during Iran-Contra. So she should be fully aware of Readiness Exercise 1984 which includes a list of 'subversives' (determined by Ollie North and the Reagan administration) who would be rounded up if martial law was declared. Prior to that list, there were many more. Tricky Dick, of course, had his "enemies list."

Or take her emotional defense of FISA. FISA is a rubber-stamp court that does what the government wants. And it's really embarrassing to watch as she and the film glorify it as something more.

But Naomi's embarrassing. Her 'concerns' during the film seem to just fade into the sunset after the 2008 election.

She expresses outrage over the House passing the so-called Protect America Act of 2007 -- the Democratically controlled House of Representatives. Only six people in the House voted against the bill -- three Democrats and three Republicans. If this act was so outrageous (we think it is), why weren't protests held at the DNC convention in 2008? Because a lot of people were running interference?


It's certainly true that Naomi's no longer writing columns and books attacking the PATRIOT Act (which was renewed under Barack) or Guantanamo (which remains open under Barack) or military trials or any of the points made on title cards at the end of the film, shortly after she's calling on the American people to "rise up."

"There's a point and I know it,"she rambles on in the film. "If I open The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal and I read that someone I identify with -- a journalist, a commentator -- has been named an enemy combatant and is in a 10 x 12 foot cell in a Navy brig, it's at that point that I'm going to stop talking."

She gives all these lectures about patriotism but then wants you to know that if someone she identifies with gets named an enemy combatant, that's when she shuts her mouth. What message does that send?

If tomorrow Michael Ratner's named an enemy combatant, our voices don't fall silent. We get even louder. And we do that because Michael Ratner's safety and the safety of all Americans is at stake. How dare this woman preach silence in the face of a political crackdown?

What she is, at best, is a fair weather patroit who will do the right thing as long as it doesn't cause any trouble for her. At worst, she's part of the fear industry -- a full fledged partner in it as much as George W. Bush -- and she worked overtime to frighten people in order to turn out the vote for the Democratic Party.

Whatever her motives were, she's now a full fledged joke and our only regret as the film ended was that this wasn't a sitcom, The Nutty Airhead?, that we could tune into each week and laugh at the latest scatter-brained mess she'd gotten herself into. No, this is real life and her 'antics' have messed up a lot more than just her own life these days.

Those Archie comics (Dona)

I grew up reading the various Archie comic book titles, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, Cheryl Blossom, Veronica, World of Archie, Betty and Betty and Veronica, among others. We do various comic features here and they please a large number of readers; however, there are a few, like me, who grew up on the Archie titles and always hope there will be at least one article devoted to them.

Merry Christmas.


Currently Archie & Friends Double Digest issue 10, Jughead Double Digest issue 175 and B&V Friends Double Digest issue 219 are on sale. The three books will offer a nostalgic reminder to fans of the titles who stopped reading some time ago. They'll also provide entertainment to new readers.

But before we get to any of that, let's talk about what's wrong with the Archie series.

B&V (Betty & Veronica) kicks off with a four-part series involving Sugarplum who is in Riverdale in tears because Santa has just fired her. Sugarplum is supposed to be quite the looker -- and will romance Archie in part two -- but what you notice (whether she's pixie size or human size) is how much she looks like Archie in a long, orange wig -- and they both look like Jughead's cousin Bingo!

They really don't know how to draw different characters. And Reggie looks like Alex, while Ethyl looks like Jughead and on and on it goes. It's like the whole Lucy and Violet twin-quality in Peanuts.

If the characters look the same, don't get me started on the storylines. It's not just that you will see them repeat from issues you remember long ago but you will see them repeat from digest to digest. You will also wonder why the heck Betty and Veronica are still fighting over Archie? Is he really that special?

Archie comics was created with the hopes of cashing in on the Andy Hardy film series -- a series of B-movies that Louis Mayer thought would teach morals. Mickey Rooney starred as Andy Hardy and Archie is, indeed, still drawn to resemble Rooney. But the Andy Hardy films are largely forgotten today and worth remembering only for Judy Garland's appearences in three of them (Love Finds Andy Hardy, Andry Hardy Meets Debutante and Life Begins for Andy Hardy). The Archie comics turned Garland's Betsy Booth in Betty. Both characters are the girl-next-door, pretty and nice and overlooked by Andy and Archie who can't take their eyes off the snobby Cynthia (Lana Turner) and Veronica.

When you realize that was the starting point, it's not all that surprising that little ever happened, after all, the film series could only come up with 16 titles and that included marriage and children.

But most people don't stick steady with Archie for decades. Many of its readers are new ones who discover the titles each year and, for those, the stories are fresh and new.

More importantly, for those who don't live in a city or town with a comic book store, Archie comics -- specifically the paperback digests -- may be all the comic titles they have regular access to. The graphic novel brought about many things including the death of the Comics Code Authority stamp. That's a good thing in many ways; however, in small cities and towns across the country where stores regularly put a plain cover over the latest issue of Cosmo, not having the stamp has meant many grocery and convenience stores that once carried comic books no longer do. (Kindle users may be thinking, "Comics can be viewed on a Kindle!" Those of us who have actually tried to do are aware that the process leaves a lot to be desired.)

So the digests can be all that can breed a love for comic books and, yes, for reading in many places. If you're wanting to visit the Archie world currently, I'd suggest you skip Archie & Friends. It's straight forward to the point of being dull. Jughead Double Digest, like its title character, is goofy and enjoyable.

The best one is B&V Friends -- and I say that despite the digest wasting entire pages with 'fashions' of Betty and Veronica. What makes this so successful?

While Archie really offers nothing but Archie and Jughead offers only a few alternatives, the B&V features not only Betty and Veronica stories but also Li'l Jinx, Cheryl Blossom, Tomoko, Sabrina and Josie and the Pussycats stories.

As an Archie fan, I've been trying to get a piece on them for over two years now. The idea for this happened right before Thanksgiving when a friend back home with a five-year-old son was telling me about how the digests -- available at her local supermarket -- had already started to fascinate her son and how she was planning a trip in January, for his birthday, to a comic book store (that trip will require an hour drive). And the point here is that the various Archie digests are available in many grocery stores, right there where you check out, on the rack above the candy. For many Ameican children, they remain not only their first exposure to comics but their only regular exposure.

He's not doing his job

On Wednesday, US House Rep. Jason Chaffetz chaired a hearing into Iraq and Afghanistan with a focus on, as he explained it, "addressing the accountability of tax dollar in war zones." In order to do that, the House Oversight and Government Reform's National Security Subcommittee had called various IGs to testify. IGs are Inspector Generals. There are thirty Federal Inspector Generals and they are appointed by the President of the United States.

Appearing before Congress Wednesday were the Defense Department's Inspector General Gordon S. Heddell, the State Department's Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel, US AID's Acting Inspector General Michael Carroll, the acting Inspector General for the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen.

Why was the State Department's Deputy Inspector General testifying? Why not the Inspector General?

As R. Jeffrey Smith (Washington Post) explained last April, "The inspector general's position in the department has been unfilled since 2007, longer than any of the other 72 such positions in the government. Harold W. Geisel, a deputy who formerly worked as a U.S. ambassador, has run the office instead, and he says he has doubled its staff and tripled its investigations." And concerns were being expressed then that there was no IG appointed by Barack Obama.

The five witnesses that testified last week? If Congress calls them back mid-January, only one (Stuart Bowen) will still be an IG, a point noted in the hearing by Chaffetz.

Subcommittee Chair Jason Chaffetz: Before recognizing Ranking Member [John] Tierney, I'd like to note that the Defense Dept, State Dept, USAID and SIGAR will not have IGs in January. In May of this year, I wrote the President asking him to move without delay to appoint replacements. That letter was signed by Senators [Joe] Lieberman, [Susan] Collins, [Claire] McCaskill and [Rob] Portman, as well as [House Oversight Committee] Chairman [Darrell] Issa and Ranking Member [Elijah] Cummings and Ranking Member Tierney. I'd like to place a copy of this record into the record. Without objection, so ordered. To my knowledge, the President has yet to nominate any of these replacements, nor has he responded to this letter. I find that totally unacceptable. This is a massive, massive effort. It's going to take some leadership from the White House. These jobs cannot and will not be done if the president fails to make these appointments. Upon taking office, President Obama promised that his administration would be "the most open and transparent in history." You cannot achieve transparency without inspectors general. Again, I urge President Obama and the Senate to nominate and confirm inspectors general to fill these vacancies and without delay.

Last week, you may have seen headlines about Barack and vacations, such as this one from the Associated Press: "Obama says no vacation till payroll tax cut extended: Republicans Advance Bill." We'd argue that the president should keep his butt in DC until he can name nominees to these positions. These are his job duties and he's had more than enough vacations, more than enough golf games, more than enough basketball games, more than enough daily workouts and more than enough sit-downs with Jay Leno. At what point does he stop posing and start governing?

There are 20 more days left in the month. Then the US loses four people performing oversight. That oversight is to hold the government accountable, to keep it honest. That honestly matters a great deal more than most of the topics Barack grand stands on.

got a vacation to take care of first

Illustration is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Got A Vacation To Take Care Of First."

The Ugly Gas Bag

1 test

Watching America
features a translation of Tomasz Zalewski's "Appalling Ignorance of Americans." We're always a little surprised by -- and, honestly, disgusted with -- people who can't hold their own governments accountable. We are citizens of the United States and, week after week, we call out occupants of the White House, members of Congress, you name it.

Five years ago, as John Howard did his best to destroy Australia, we were appalled by Australian bloggers who religiously devoured US newspapers daily as they attempted to post one post after another calling out Bully Boy Bush when they should have been patrolling their own leadership. The easiest way in the world to pose as 'brave' is to trash another country's government while staying silent about your own.

We have a similar reaction to people who want to sneer "stupid!" at entire members of another country. Hatred is an ugly quality.

So is ignorance.

Americans are stupid, Zalewski wants you to know and then goes on to 'document' his findings via Republican politicians. Not only is this stupid -- we can do the same with Polish politicians -- but it's dishonest. The only stupid politicians, Zalewski wants to inform you, are Republicans. But if the issue is ignorance of the US by US citizens, there's no better example than Barack Obama who, in 2008, famously claimed to have visited all 57 states in the United States. (There are 50 states in the US.)

We'd assume a measure Zalewski might be familiar with is Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. The 2010 PFI found the US at 20th and Poland at 32. As a journalist, you'd think Zalewski would stop wasting time on the US and start focusing on his own country in an attempt to increase their PFI.

But it's so much easier to call others "stupid," right?

We're Americans. We're not stupid enough to assume Zalewski speaks for everyone in Poland which is why we've directed our comments soley to him and to his cowardice.

Latkes, Kugel, Sufganiyot or Brisket Recipes

Dear Friend,
Chanukah is just two weeks away, and I can almost taste the latkes and brisket.
If your family is like mine, your Chanukah recipes have been passed down from generation to generation (even though my jelly-filled doughnuts still don't taste as good as my bubbe's).
Speaking of recipes, do you have one for latkes, kugel, sufganiyot or brisket that you can share with our community? Send in it in now, and we'll feature it in our Online Recipe Guide:

Since this is our second year of the Federation Chanukah Online Recipe Guide, we're not starting from scratch. We've already posted some of the best recipes we received last year. But we're always looking for more!
Based on last year's response, these recipes will be enjoyed by people who have never grated a potato and are looking for help and by seasoned cooks who are always interested in perfecting their techniques. Happy Chanukah -- and thanks for sharing your recipe for a happy and meaningful holiday, Jay Sanderson President & CEO The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles

Senators Murray and Burr call for an investigation

Senator Patty Murray

Senator Patty Murray (pictured above) is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office notes:

CONTACT: Matt McAlvanah (Murray) - (202) 224-2834
Tuesday, December 6th, 2011 David Ward (Burr) -- (202) 228-1616

Sens. Murray, Burr Ask VA Inspector General to Launch Investigation into Mental Health Care Wait Times

As veterans continue to take their own lives at unprecedented rates, top Democrat and Republican on Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee call for inquiry after evidence of long wait times for appointments, questions over bookkeeping practices, and dissatisfaction from frontline health care providers surface at Senate hearings

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Richard Burr (R-NC), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, asked the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Inspector General to begin a formal audit of mental health care wait times at the VA. The call for action comes after a series of Senate hearings raised questions around the time it takes for veterans to receive an initial appointment and whether VA facilities are accurately reporting mental health care accessibility.

"We write to request that your office conduct an audit of how accurately wait times for mental health services are recorded for both the initial visits and the follow-up appointments and determine if wait time data VA collects represent an accurate depiction of veterans' ability to access those services," the Senators wrote. "In addition, we ask that your office evaluate whether VA is accurately and completely reporting the data they collect."

The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee has held two hearings this year on VA mental health accessibility. At
the first hearing on July 14th the Committee heard the first-hand stories of two service members, who even after attempting to take their own lives, had appointments postponed and difficulties cutting through the red tape in order to get care. Then, just last week, the Committee heard from a VA psychologist and mental health care coordinator who testified about delays in providing mental health care treatment, including care for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). That hearing also raised questions on whether VA providers where using techniques to ensure initial mental health care appointments fall within the VA's required 14 day window, without providing true access to care at those appointments. A survey of VA mental health providers requested by Senator Murray showed dramatically different results from the waiting time data that VA reports.

Senator Murray also called VA's Inspector General, George Opfer to reiterate the importance of this investigation and the high priority she places on attaining accurate and complete mental health care wait time data from the VA. At the Committee hearing last week, the VA witnesses said the Department would cooperate fully with the investigation requested by Senators Murray and Burr.

The full text of the Senators' letter follows:

December 6, 2011

The Honorable George J. Opfer
Inspector General
Department of Veterans Affairs
801 I Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

Dear Mr. Opfer,

We continue to hear from veterans about long wait times for VA mental health services. For that reason, the Committee held a hearing last week to discuss wait times and access to mental health care. While we understand that VA is in the midst of implementing new actions which build on the continuing transformation of mental health services to improve veterans' access to care, the Committee cannot properly evaluate the implementation unless provided with accurate information.

We write to request that your office conduct an audit of how accurately wait times for mental health services are recorded for both the initial visits and the follow-up appointments and determine if wait time data VA collects represent an accurate depiction of the veterans' ability to access those services. In addition, we ask that your office evaluate whether VA is accurately and completely reporting the data they collect. We have many questions about the overall implementation of mental health services at VA, but the most important is whether or not veterans can access the mental health care they need in a timely manner. Our request would build upon your previous work regarding wait lists for mental health care. At the Committee's recent hearing we requested that the Department cooperate fully with this audit, and they have agreed to do so.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important request. We appreciate your work to ensure our nation's veterans are provided high quality care and timely services at VA and look forward to your report.


Patty Murray

Richard Burr
Ranking Member


Matt McAlvanah

Communications Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

202-224-2834 - press office

202--224-0228 - direct

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Black Panther leader Fred Hampton honored (WW)

Repost from Workers World:

On the 42nd anniversary of his assassination

Black Panther leader Fred Hampton honored

Published Dec 10, 2011 8:50 PM

At 4:45 a.m. on Dec. 4, 1969, a special Chicago Police Department/FBI/Illinois State’s Attorney’s Office death squad opened fire with machine guns, shotguns and side arms inside a small apartment at 2337 W. Monroe on this city’s West Side.

fred hampton

Their target was Chairman Fred Hampton of the Illinois Black Panther Party, who, along with another Party member, Mark Clark, were slain while sleeping. Referred to belovedly by the movement as Chairman Fred, he helped to successfully organize a free breakfast for children program, a sickle cell anemia testing program and political education study groups for Party and non-Party members.

Perhaps most dangerous for the Mayor Richard J. Daley dictatorship, he organized an alliance between street organizations like the Young Lords, the Blackstone Rangers and the Young Patriots.

His “serve the people” outlook had earned him a place on the FBI’s “Agitator Index,” which turned out to be a death sentence for him. Chairman Fred said, “You can kill the revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution,” and history has proven him to be correct.

Every year since 2001, revolutionary-minded people in Chicago and all over the world observe International Revolutionary Day on Dec. 4, in remembrance of Chairman Fred’s immortal contributions to the international proletarian revolutionary struggle.

Despite the blatant racist disrespect shown to the 2011 IRD observance by the nearby Fraternal Order of Police-sponsored Toys For Tots motorcycle parade, a moving memorial vigil was held at the site of Chairman Fred’s assassination at 2337 W. Honorary Chairman Fred Hampton Way. People came from as far away as Washington, D.C., to attend IRD.

Five minutes of silence were observed by the large crowd, led by Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee and Comrade Mother Akua Njeri. Representatives of the POCC, Black Panther Party Cubs, the Nation of Islam, L.Y.R.I.C. (Let Your Rhyme Inspire Creativity) and Workers World Party were present.

After the memorial was observed, messages of solidarity were offered by organizations and individuals to Chairman Fred Jr. and Comrade Mother Akua.

Later in the day, a reception and cultural performances were held at Wallace’s Catfish Corner, a soul food restaurant known as a meeting spot for community activists. A powerful performance was given by several youth who are affiliated with L.Y.R.I.C. about the assassination of Chairman Fred by the pigs. Poets, including K-Love of L.Y.R.I.C., Chairman Fred Jr.’s daughter Khadijah, Nubian Malik, Senyo and documentary filmmaker Daniel Yusef of Washington, D.C., delivered powerful spoken word performances. Singers included Harmony Grace, Ardice and N’gochi. Bishop Jackson, a close friend of the Hampton/Njeri family, delivered a prayer and a poem by Claude McKay.

“Chairman Fred Hampton Way,” a powerful documentary by Ray Baker about the struggle to rename the 2300 block of W. Monroe after Chairman Fred was shown, and a lively political discussion followed.


This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Ann of Ann's Mega Dub, Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

"Elected Democrats were culpable for the Iraq War as well" -- most requested highlight of the week.

"Iraq snapshot," "Assault on transparency (Ava)" and "Obama refuses to name nominees" -- C.I., Ava and Wally cover a Congressional hearing.

"Whitney," "3 men, 3 women," "community," "Late night TV," "Whitney," "Nikita," "Desperate Housewives," "What damn soap operas?," "Fire the Roots," "Body of Proof," "4 men, 5 women,"
"That awful View," "The half-time show?," "The Good Wife" and "Whoopi Goldberg needs to shut the hell up" -- Betty, Ann, Rebecca, Kat, Marcia, Mike, Stan and Ruth cover TV.

"Fancy Dogs in the Kitchen" -- Trina shares a readers' recipe.

"Bird On A Wire" -- Stan goes to the movies.

"THIS JUST IN! THAT'S A THREAT!" and "Scary!" -- America's princess is so crazy.

"fracking" -- Rebecca on the destruction.

"That fake speech" -- Mike on the fool.

"So much for the new era of transparency" -- It never got established.

"I am not that forgetful" -- Elaine on memory, Newt and more.

"THIS JUST IN! VOTE FOR THE OTHER ONE!" & "Electing the other party" -- Wally and Cedric wonder who he is campaigning for?

"On women in the arts" -- Betty's post on how women get stripped out of history.

"The economy" -- Trina covers the economy.

"i'm so sick of this crap" -- Rebecca on the need of some people to insist it's their footballs.

"That sleazy John Edwards" -- Ruth on the fallen fraud.

"The make-or-break was 2008" -- Elaine doesn't fall for the hype.
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