Sunday, December 04, 2011

Truest statement of the week

The inability of the United States and Iraq to agree on legal immunity for American troops led to President Obama's announcement in October that the last soldiers would leave the country by the end of the year.
But administration officials have suggested that once the withdrawal is complete -- a politically significant milestone in both the United States and Iraq -- the two sides could negotiate the return of American troops to the country for training purposes.

-- Mark Landler, "Iraq Would Accept U.S. Soldiers as Trainers," New York Times.

Truest statement of the week II

This whole episode in American history is a very disturbing thing to look at. And I think when people look back, they're going to wonder why the hell did we ever go into Iraq? And there will be no question, even in our minds today, whether or not the money that was expended and the lives and the blood that was expended there was worth it? It was not. And whatever we are spending now should be terminated and as soon as we can get those troops out, the better. When you find yourself in a bad situation, you don't try to mess around to make it a little bit less bad, you just step over and try to get in a good situation somewhere else where you can accomplish things.

-- US House Rep. Dana Rohrabacher at last week's House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing.

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?

Mark Landler. NYT.
A member of Congress. Read the snapshot if you're thinking, "He supported the war!" because, yes, he did, but he said he was wrong in that hearing.
If you're able to read Arabic, you are so much better informed about what's happening with the US and Iraq right now.
Ava and C.I. were among the sick. A nasty cold has Jess, Betty, Ava, C.I. and Kat. We weren't expecting anything from any of them. Dona and I (Jim) were thinking this would be the week where we do a clip-fest of past Ava and C.I. TV pieces. Instead, they rallied to write this and rallied for the whole edition. (And don't praise me for the title. I generally write the headlines. I came up with "Multiple Personality Disorder Sitcome" for this one when Ava and C.I. corrected me. :D )
There was talk of this being a comic book edition. That talk was Ty, Jess, Dona and myself. We forgot to share that with Ava and C.I. who stated they had nothing comic book related they could think of for the reviews. So we put that on hold. (That includes Dona's piece. Most likely we'll do comics features next week as well instead of doing a single edition of all comic books.) We love this comic title. We've been covering her since Detective Comics and had promised we'd note her when she got her own title.

This concludes our picks for the ten best books of the last ten years.

We had already posted everything but the TV commentary when Ava and C.I. screamed "Wait!" This feature had been talked about and then forgotten. Betty plans to use the photo at her site on Monday so this needed to go up. Ava, C.I. and Ty quickly wrote this.

This was a straight forward and dull piece until Ava and C.I., high on cold medicine, grabbed it and gave it more of a comic spin. That's when the piece worked because we were honestly going to trash it before Ava and C.I. did a rewrite.

We were going to do more on Mark Landler and Dona was going to talk to Ava and C.I. about the Congressional hearings they attended. But too many people were sick and we just wanted to get done with this edition. (C.I.'s waiting for me to finish this note before she goes and does the Sunday entry at The Common Ills.) Elaine, Ann and Cedric were the leaders on the various drafts of this piece.
A comic book survey. Those afflicted with colds did not work on this. They were taking medicine at this point. Big help from Mike, Marcia, Stan and Rebecca on this one especially. Not trying to slight anyone else but they really did a lot of work on the various drafts for this piece.

Heads up from Senator Murray's office.
Workers World repost.

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

We thank Ava and C.I. for their hard work steering last week's edition.


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

Editorial: A tale of two languages

joe and jalal

US Vice President Joe Biden (pictured above with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani) went to Iraq last week. It was a 'surprise' visit to read the US press. It was completely expected to read the Iraqi press that week or weeks and weeks back -- they'd been reporting the visit was coming since October.

And that probably catpures better than anything else the loss you're at if you're dependent upon English sources. Last week, AP announced that the NATO deal was in jeopardy over immunity -- NATO deal? It had been reported in the Iraqi press but ignored in the US press (see C.I.'s "NATO forces to be on the ground in Iraq?" for one example).

News in Iraqi media Saturday included "State of Law says US Air Force will be 'leased' to Iraq." We've yet to see an English outlet report on that.

Last week, the chasim between the knowlege provided to Arabic readers and the knowledge provided to English readers was reduced by the reporting of New York Times' Mark Landler who explained that negotiations continue and that the new year may find a new deal involving US forces.

In last week's House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing (click here for a report on that hearing), Ranking Member Gary Ackerman noted that, come January, interest in Iraq is going to plummet. How very fortunate that most outlets will play along and dismiss Iraq as an issue -- in an election year no less.

The Iraqi press can't afford to 'dimiss' Iraq. They've got to keep the issue front and center because Iraq is their country and events effect their lives. But the government that made the decision to invade, the government that wrecked the country, it's going to 'officially' walk away now. And instead of calling that out, the bulk of the US press has enlisted to help the White House with that effort.

TV: Dissociative identity sitcom

Pity Roseanne for never of having had the 'smarts' to get busted for dealing drugs and sent to prison. If she had, surely ABC would have pursued her for a follow up sitcom. Judging by convicted felon Tim Allen's fall debut, Roseanne wouldn't have even had to come up with a funny script or even a funny concept. Maybe Tim Allen's dealing drugs to ABC suits?


Last Man Standing is Tim Allen's return to TV, his follow up to the mildly amusing Home Improvement. The latter also aired on ABC and Allen made sure he was the 'big dog' there by surrounding himself with light weights thereby explaining why, all these years later, you either don't know his co-stars names or are left asking, "Whatever happened to Patricia Richardson?"

Nancy Travis has the role of "wife" this go-round. Vanessa is as poorly written as the role of Jill but Travis is no yokel nor is she trying to discover a talent. She's a functioning actress with a reserve of talent and then some. So even when the role is completely underwritten (such as "Co-Ed Softball"), Travis can still bring home the laughs.

She can help the show tread water; however, she can't make it float.

When we saw the first two episodes, we couldn't believe how awful the show was. It was so bad that reviewing it honestly would've felt like abuse. We asked a friend at ABC what the deal was and he assured us that the show was getting better.

He didn't lie. The first two were unfunny and unwatchable. Then it moved to unfunny but watchable. Now it's funny.

Half of it anyway.

The problem's no longer Tim. Writing and recovering his sense of pacing has made Mike Baxter seem like a character and not just a plot device.

The problems revolve around Outdoor Man, the sportings good store that Mike works out. Every thing that could be wrong about that setting is. A bunch of bad actors in poorly written roles and you top that off with Hector Elizondo attempting to turn every moment into high drama and it's just too much.

How bad is Hector? Except for episode eight, Life With Lucy bad. In fact, the entire store setting is Life With Lucy bad. Including its all male staff and their 1962 problems.

1962 problems?

The store softball team, in episode five, must go co-ed or be tossed out of the league. This leads to a lot of time with a lot of bad actors fretting over their masculinity. News flash, you're playing "softball." Not baseball. You can pretend to 'man' that up all you want but the reality is you're still pitching underhanded.

Time and again, the store and it's all male employees (Elizondo refers to a Denise in shipping in one episode) are not just dull, they're annoying. With the exception of Kyle (who dates Mike and Vanessa's oldest daughter), they're all in that vague 30-60 age group and stocky. As though the casting call went something like, "Tim's very sensitive about his expansive frame so we're looking for really homely." It's really not funny to watch these men who delude themselves that they're doing 'manly' work as they . . . work at a store . . . as sales clerks.

It's really not funny when these portly, slovenly, unshaved slobs start picking on Kyle or laughing at him as Elizondo or Allen pick on him. In fact, what's going on is inappropriate -- legally inappropriate. Another reason to drop that setting.

Is this really the work environment Disney wants to portray? Where the owner of a company (Alizondo) and the man who picks to run (Allen) target and bully a single employee (Kyle), repeatedly mocking his masculinity? Holding him up for ridicule in front of the other workers?

(For information on workplace bullying, click here for the Workplace Bullying Institute.)

When the show focuses on Mike's family, it's funny -- Travis and the daughters, the neighbors who show up for a crime watch meeting, the lesbian couple that just moved in. It also makes Tim Allen come off better. He's looser, he's funnier. By contrast, when he's at Outdoor Man the show starts giving off the scent of The Paul Reiser Show.

Batwoman owns the night

Kate's gone from crying to kissing Maggie. Earlier, she'd fought with the Weeping Woman and told her cousin Bette to get lost and did we mention the government agent on her tail?

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Kate is Kate Kane, aka Batwoman, who's left DC's Detective Comics for her own DC title. J.H. Williams III is the artist and, with W. Haden Blackman, co-writer of the series.

As with her stint at Detective Comics, Batwoman's fighting more than the run of the mill villains that so many comic book heroes and heroines face off against. The woman so fond of blood red -- check hair and costume -- faces various demons and battles the world of the occult.

Which is why the Department of Extranormal Operations' Cameron Chase is on her tail. The what? The who? In issue two of Batwoman, Batman explains, "She's a top agent in the Department of Extranormal Operations. A major Black Ops outfit tasked with keeping tabs on people like us."

Batwoman's primary target for the current storyline is The Weeping Woman who tries to lure her to her own death underwater and appears to magnify fears. With Kate, The Weeping Woman brings up the dead Alice who, right before she fell to her death, convinced Kate she was Kate's identical sister Beth. Batwoman almost succumbs to guilt and fear but manages to escape to the surface.

Away from Gotham's Underworld, Kate's still mourning the death of her lover Renee but ready to explore with Maggie. Oh, and cousin Bette? That would be the Teen Titans' Flamebird. And Bette's biggest crime, as far as Kate's concerned, was probably attempting to fix the problems between Kate and her father. Yeah, they're on the outs again.

And did we mention the missing children?

A lot's going on in this five part "Hydrology" storyline that's kicked the series off. And it's allowed the series to avoid so much of what sinks other new comic book series. There's no cutesy villains to hook in the Super Friends audience, there's no attempt to turn a female lead character into a man with long hair (which just tends to make the woman a pale copy -- we can name three comics with 'female' leads right now that fit that description) and she's not a little girl dependent on Daddy (we can name two comics which infantalize the lead female).

It's rare that a series kicks off so strongly and so sure-footed. And "Hydrology" is followed up with "To Drown the World," a story arc (writing again by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, art by Amy Reeder and Richard Friend). Building on the strong foundation Williams and Greg Rucka provided Batwoman with in 2010 (Detective Comics), DC is making Batwoman not just the most satisfying title of 2011 but the one to watch next year as well.
Batwoman autographed

Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking


If we couldn't laugh in these insane times, we'd cry non-stop. Now more than ever, a good laugh is sorely needed. The decade that started with the Supreme Court installing second place Bully Boy Bush to the White House was supposed to end with change that would restore civil liberties, end the PATRIOT Act, end the wars, restore the Constitution, close Guantanamo and so much more. Instead, Barack Obama appeared to decide, "If I only have four years to serve, let me one-term it as a Bush."

Again, laughter was sorely needed in the last ten years. And many of the books we have previously picked for inclusion have a barb or two, a humorous aside. But our tenth and final pick of the ten most important books of the last ten years (2001 through 2011) is one that provides deep laughs.

Oh, and remember that white dress I wore all through the first movie? Unless you didn't see Star Wars, in which case, why are you still reading this? Anyway, George comes up to me the first day of filming and he takes one look at the dress and says, "You can't wear a bra under that dress."
So, I say, "Okay, I'll bite. Why?"

And he says, "Because . . . there's no underwear in space."

I promise you this is true, and he says it with such conviction too! Like he had been to space and looked around and he didn't see any bras or panties or briefs anywhere.
Now, George came to my show when it was in Berkeley. He came backstage and explained why you can't wear your brassiere in other galaxies, and I have a sense you will be going to outer space very soon, so here's why you cannot wear your brassiere, per George. So, what happens is you go to space and you become weightless. So far so good, right? But then your body expands??? But your bra doesn't -- so you get strangled by your own bra. Now I think that this would make for a fantastic obit -- so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.

George is, of course, George Lucas. And the author, even more "of course," is Carrie Fisher.

carrie fisher

2008's Wishful Drinking was both an excellent read and a mood enhancer -- a book that could lift you on a bad day and amuse you on a good one.

And true. The author found a way to look back at her own life and share it in an amusing manner -- which led to her stage show and then the book -- demonstrating yet again that the actress who came to fame as Princess Leia had even more talents than was initially understood.

And while she was bringing the much needed laughter to our lives, she was actually in a personal hell as she explains in this year's Shockaholic -- and still manages to keep you laughing.

She's often wrongly compared to Dorothy Parker. Both women were witty and funny. But "Big Blonde" is Parker's lasting claim to fame, a wonderful short story. Carrie's always needed a bigger canvas and has focused on novels (Postcards From The Edge, Surrender The Pink, Delusions of Grandma and The Best Awful) and memoir (Wishful Drinking and Shockaholic). There's only one Dorothy Parker and only one Carrie Fisher -- maybe proving each era gets the laughs it needs.

The book topped the list of best books for The Common Ills community in 2009 and Martha and Shirley explained:

Carrie Fisher's writing about her life. Supposedly. We say "supposedly" not because we think she's tightened up reality more than any other clever writer would. We say "supposedly" because there's a lot of the country's history in this very personal book.
That may be because she's lived through -- and taken part in -- so many defining moments and trends of recent decades.
Regardless, the book is much deeper than you'd expect from a writer's autobiography. We say "writer" because, yes, she is an actress, but when it comes to print, she earned "writer" with her first book (
Postcards From The Edge).

So popular is the book it topped the 2009 picks of best books and turned around and made it to number four the following year on the 2010 best books.

In this series of ten important books of the last ten years, we've selected ten books that we think captured the era and offered something of lating use. Carrie's book is our tenth pick. We've also selected "Peter Laufer's Mission Rejected," "Chris Hedges'Death of the Liberal Class," "Shirley MacLaine's I'm Over All That," "CCR's Articles of Impeachment Against Bush," "Manal M. Omar's Barefoot in Baghdad," "Susan Faludi's The Terror Dream," "Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price's Courting Justice," "Anthony Arnove's Iraq: The Logic Of Withdrawal" and "Tori's Piece by Piece." Due to the Great Recession, your local libraries are both overtaxed (seeing more patrons than ever before) and underfunded. Make a point to check out your local library or local branch of your library and consider letting your local representatives know that you support increasing the budget for the library.

The non-'essentials'

a picture

A picture truly can paint a thousand words.

Ever wonder how women get erased from history?

Blue Ray's the 'hot' 'new' thing these days. And instead of just releasing new titles (a very small piece of the economic pie), they also want to release "classics."

Seven films billed as "Blue Ray Essentials." Notice anything? Women aren't the leads and aren't really important in any of those films.

Well, you say, those are the big hits.

Are they?

Okay, Ghostbusters was a big hit.

However . . .

The Patriot was a big disappointment -- all the more so when the studio was caught crafting reviews. Though Snatch did okay by Guy Richie standards, by Guy Richie standards Juno is a summer blockbuster franchise. The Fifth Element? It only made $63.5 million in the US. And it cost $95 million to make the film.

That reminds us of another Bruce Willis film that made about that much at the box office (with a much smaller production budget), Death Becomes Her. Starring Goldie Hawn, Meryl Streep and Bruce, the film was directed by Robert Zemeckis who is known for his visual style.

But that's not an "essential." No film where women are anything more than 'the girl' or the third lead makes it as an 'essential.'

It's funny because we could see "essential" being based upon box office. We could see it being based on critics. But what we're seeing is a line that zig zags, a line that is jerry-mandered to keep women out. 'Oh, it's about box office!' you can hear them insist as they feature Spiderman. 'Well Fifth Element has been criticially reconsidered!' you can hear them insist to explain that bomb's inclusion as an 'essential.' But the reality is the only criteria remains: Do you have a penis?

All non-penises are non-essentials.

This despite the fact that top 5 DVD sales for last year weren't dominated by these 'action boyz' films. No, a children's movie (Toy Story 3), two tween-geared films (The Twilight Saga: New Moon and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), Avatar and Sandra Bullock's The Blind Side were the top five best selling DVDs of 2010.

From the TESR Test Kitchen

There we were, on dawn patrol, Sunday morning. Some of us had nasty colds, some of us went in search of medications and vitamin C drops. And it was there, at a drug store, that Jim stopped dead in his tracks.


mpc 928

Like the talking dogs in the commercial who rush around saying "bacon, bacon, bacon," Jim just had to have it.

As a supposed recommendation -- more likely a warning -- the box boasts it is "From the makers of Baconnaise and Bacon Salt."

Three bags for about four dollars and each one guaranteed to burn at least partially in your microwave.

On the back of the box, Justin & Dave -- no, we don't know who they are either -- explain:

BaconPOP is the continuing story of two bacon fanatics (Justin& Dave) on a never-ending quest to make everything taste like bacon. It started with Bacon Salt and $5,000 Dave won on America's Funniest Home Videos when his kid hit him in the face. It continued with Baconnaise, the Ultimate Bacon Flavored Spread. And now we bring you BaconPOP, the bacon-flavored microwave popcorn that brings butter and bacon together for a Friday night movie date. BaconPOP is even safe for Vegans and Vegetarians. As Justin is fond of saying, 'Dave should get hit in the face more often'."

When you put it in the microwave and hit that "Popcorn" button, do not walk off. You will need to stand next to the microwave or risk burning the whole bag. It will be done long before the microwave automatically goes off. If you wait for when there are several seconds between kernal pops, guess what, you will still have burned popcorn.

For the third bag, we stopped it while popcorn was still popping. And we still had burned popcorn. (With Orville, we just toss it in the microwave and hit the "Popcorn" button, no problems.)

Well what did it -- or at the least the unburned pieces -- taste like?

Did they taste like bacon?

Not a bit.

They were flavorless. But greasy. And about thirty minutes after sampling, they made you feel bloated.

If you love the taste of bacon, do yourself a favor and skip this product. If someone you love loves bacon, warn them. Warn them now.

Super Hero of the Week

mark landler

That's Mark Landler, a correspondent for The New York Times. We're happy to knock and to praise that paper when we feel it deserves it. But we want to give huge praise to the paper and to Mark Landler for last week.

The most important English language article on Iraq was Landler's report "Iraq Would Accept U.S. Soldiers as Trainers." The article quoted US Vice President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki speaking publicly after their one-on-one meeting. From the article:

But his comments suggested that for all the solemn pageantry of a war's ending, there is likely to be considerable continuity in the security relationship between the United States and Iraq, as it struggles to contain terrorist attacks by insurgent groups.
The inability of the United States and Iraq to agree on legal immunity for American troops led to President Obama's announcement in October that the last soldiers would leave the country by the end of the year.
But administration officials have suggested that once the withdrawal is complete -- a politically significant milestone in both the United States and Iraq -- the two sides could negotiate the return of American troops to the country for training purposes.

The Administration didn't care for the report, as C.I. documents, and at least one reporter got scared and ran away from it.

It would have been very easy for Landler and the paper to then walk away. They didn't. They stood behind the solid reporting.

There was a time when you'd expect that from an outlet as basic behavior. But these days, it's rather uncommon. And there's no disputing Landler became the first reporter for US outlet to document what is an ongoing process of negotiations taking place now. So we'll applaud The New York Times and we'll hail Mark Landler as the Super Hero of the Week.

World of comic books

She claimed Barack Obama was the father of her baby (his WikiLeaked! announced one cover) and that was just one of the many plots she hatched as she attempted to dominate the world from New Port City. Then, after giving birth in the sixth installmant of "Oh-BOMB-Ah!," Bomb Queen died.

Oh, yeah, like Image Comics would drop their calling card just like that.

With story and art by Jimmie Robinson and colors by Paul Little, the latest Bomb Queen mini-series opens with a quote from Malcolm X, "The future belongs to those who prepare for it today." The world's changed a great deal as we leap to 2112. A group of people are using their 'connected'/'jacked' selves to go the nuclear dumb that now is New Port City. It plays like one of those space shuttles that you can buy a ride on.

There they search out the monks in charge of the National Underground Library -- books have been made illegal and all public libraries closed. The monks have actually lured the four too this area. They have a plan to destroy the connected/jacked-in world and return to the Luddite world. They have Bomb Queen's prototype and are going to unless it into the digital world.

B-b-but she destroyed the real world! She'll likely do the same to the digital world!


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Meanwhile Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips continue Criminal's "The Last Of The Innocent." How far will Riley go to get the life he felt he should have had in high school? Even lower as he ensures that his best friend dies so that his own happiness continues.

Something's dying in Cobra's seventh issue -- a storyline -- but at least the issue has Antonio Fuso's artwork. The strong, independent visual style goes a long way towards making this stale retread seem fresh. You've seen it all before if you've seen The Rookie, or Stakeout or any of the movies where an old geezer like Robert Duvall shows up to mid-wife the birth of Tom Cruise into manhood. The twist here is that the man is a woman. With shocking white hair! If that underwhelms you, we feel your boredom. Cobra has grown-up art but continues to rely upon the tiredest writing.

Wonder Woman continues to be one of the most inventive comic around. Fresh off the series where Diana had to go hand-to-hand with War, the latest continuing storyline picks up immediately after where Diana has become a god. The Amazons of Paradise Island are not happy and feel abandoned as Diana's been whisked away to be with Hermes and other Gods. It is there that Queen Hippolta -- Diana's mother -- tells her the truth.

The latest storyline trashes the old origin plot where the Queen fashions a daughter out of Clay. (In this issue, three, the other Amazons sneeringly refer to Diana as "Clay.") It turns out that Hippolta and Zeus had a passionate affair which she ended when she became pregnant. If anyone knew of the pregnancy (even Zeus), Hippolta feared Hera would find out and kill Diana.

Diana returns to the Amazons and tells them not to call her Clay or Diana. She is Wonder Woman; thereby kicking off Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's latest long running storyline.

While Image Comics already has Bomb Queen but Chalres Soule and Renzo Podesta are giving them another strong title to boast about (cover by W. Scott Forbes) Twenty Seven. A male singer and guitar player makes a deal with the God of Fame and hopes for all to be wonderful. But eighties one-hit wonder Valerie has plans of her own, including killing eleven of her fellow one-hit wonders as a sacrifice to Fame in order to get back what she briefly had.

Senate VA Committee asks about the long wait for care

Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of that Committee and her office notes:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Murray Press Office

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 (202) 224-2834

VETERANS: Senator Murray Chairs Hearing to Question VA Officials on Unacceptable Waiting Lines for Mental Health Care

Survey of mental health providers shows continuing serious delays for mental health care at providers across the country, Murray questions top VA mental health officials on causes and efforts to address this problem

HEARING VIDEO: “VA Mental Health Care: Addressing Wait Times and Access to Care”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, held a hearing focusing on the long wait for mental health care at some VA facilities across the country. The hearing, which comes at a time when as many as 18 veterans are committing suicide each day, was a chance for Senator Murray to question the VA on a survey she requested of mental health providers who indicated that in many areas of the country wait times far exceeded the VA’s mandated 14 day window. The survey also showed that 70 percent of providers said they did not have adequate staff or space to meet the mental health care needs of the veterans and 46 percent said the lack of off-hour appointments prevented veterans from accessing care.

“The VA can and must do much better,” said Senator Murray. “And I’m pleased to say that since I asked for the survey, they’ve taken some steps in the right direction. However, this problem isn’t going anywhere and there is much more to be done. And with another announcement yesterday of 33,000 troops coming home by the end of next year from Afghanistan - the demand for care will only swell. We need to meet the veteran’s desire for care with the immediate assurance that it will be provided – and provided quickly.”

Senator Murray heard testimony from providers about the challenges they face in getting patients into care – including from Dr. Michelle Washington, Coordinator, PTSD Services and Evidence Based Psychotherapy, Wilmington, DE VA Medical Center, who was representing the American Federation of Government Employees. Dr. Washington spoke to the daily frontline barriers she and fellow VA mental health providers encounter at our VA facilities.

In addition, Senator Murray heard testimony from:

· Mary Schohn, PhD, Director, Mental Health Operations, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs

· Charles W. Hoge, MD, Col. U.S. Army (Ret.)

· Barbara Van Dahlen, PhD, Founder and President, Give an Hour

· John Roberts, Executive Vice President, Mental Health and Warrior Engagement, Wounded Warrior Project

The full text of Senator Murray’s statement follows:

“Welcome to today’s hearing to examine the barriers our veterans are facing in seeking mental health care. Today’s hearing builds upon our July hearing on the same subject. At that hearing, the Committee heard about two servicemembers, who – even after attempting to take their own lives – had appointments postponed and difficulties cutting through the red tape in order to get care.

“I know that - like me - many on this committee were angered and frustrated by those stories. And I’m glad that today we’ll have the opportunity to both get more information and answers on why these delays persist.

“Today, we will hear from providers about the challenges they face in getting patients into care – including from Michele Washington who has been brave enough to come forward to give us a true sense of the daily frontline barriers at our VA facilities. We will also hear about the critical importance of access to the right type of care - delivered on time - by qualified mental health professionals.

“At our hearing in July I requested that VA survey their frontline mental health professionals about whether they have sufficient resources to get veterans into treatment. The results that came back to me shortly after were not good: of the VA providers surveyed, nearly 40 percent said they cannot schedule an appointment in their own clinic within the VA mandated 14 day window, 70 percent said they did not have adequate staff or space to meet the mental health care needs of the veterans they serve, and 46 percent said the lack of off-hour appointments prevented veterans from accessing care.

“The survey not only showed that our veterans are being forced to wait for care – it also captured the tremendous frustration of those who are tasked with healing veterans. It showed wide discrepancies between facilities in different parts of the country – including the difference between access in urban and rural areas. And it provided a glimpse at a VA system that 10 years into war is still not fully equipped for the influx of veterans seeking mental health care.

“The VA can and must do much better. And I’m pleased to say that since I asked for the survey, they’ve taken some steps in the right direction. They have worked to hire additional mental health staff to fill vacancies. They have increased their staffing levels of the Veterans Crisis Line and the Homeless Call Center. And they have made VISN directors accountable for more standards of access to care. These are positive steps, but there is much more to be done – as we will undoubtedly see today.

“You know, just yesterday, before this hearing, I looked through the most recent statistics on PTSD that the VA had provided my office. They showed what we all know – this problem isn’t going anywhere.

“As thousands of veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan – you can see the number of PTSD appointments steadily rise each quarter. And with another announcement yesterday of 33,000 troops coming home by the end of next year from Afghanistan - the demand for care will only swell. This should not come as shock to the VA. And it should not cause the waiting line for care to grow.

“Especially at a time when we are seeing record suicides among our veterans – we need to meet the veteran’s desire for care with the immediate assurance that it will be provided – and provided quickly.

“We can’t afford to leave them discouraged that they can’t find an appointment. We can’t leave them frustrated. We cannot let them down. We need to fix this now. The VA has had a decade to prepare. Now is the time for action and for effective leadership.

“I look forward to hearing from all our witnesses today and I hope that this hearing is another step to increased accountability of our efforts to provide timely mental health care.

“And with that, I turn it over to Ranking Member Burr.”


Meghan Roh

Deputy Press Secretary

Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray



Get Updates from Senator Murray

All out for Mumia December 9th

Repost from Workers World:

All out for Mumia

Fri., Dec. 9 • Philadelphia

Published Dec 3, 2011 10:34 AM

Mumia Abu-Jamal

The 30th anniversary of his incarceration and frame up

Having survived two execution orders and 30 years on death row in solitary confinement, never being able to touch his dying mother or sister, his spouse, children or grandchildren (let alone anyone else, other than the prison guards who handcuff and shackle him), Mumia Abu-Jamal, an innocent man, now faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison.

Even though by the courts’ rulings, Mumia should never have been sentenced to death in the first place; should never have spent one day on death row, as his 30 years on death row were in blatant violation of the Constitution; those who have for those 30 years wanted to “fry Mumia,” now simply want him to rot in prison for the rest of his life. The prosecution, resigned to the defeat of their decades-long strategy thanks to the powerful and consistent international movement of resistance — which has held on over these many years — is now saying, “Okay, let him go into general population and let’s close the chapter on this case that has caused us so much embarrassment.”

We say this is totally unacceptable: the only justice that can be applied at this point, after 30 years of Mumia’s confinement on death row and the torture of isolation, is Mumia’s immediate release.

On December 9 — on the eve of International Human Rights Day — hundreds will rally at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center demanding freedom for Mumia and all political prisoners, abolition of the death penalty, an end to mass incarceration and police terrorism, and in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.

Constitution Center, 525 Arch St., Philadelphia

7:30 p.m. sharp to 10:30 p.m., (doors open at 7 p.m.)

  • No to life in prison, free Mumia now!!!
  • No to the racist death penalty, no to the prison industrial complex,
  • No to police terrorism, no to U.S. wars at home and abroad,
  • Free all political prisoners, Occupy Wall Street
  • Hear: Cornel West, Immortal Technique, Ramona Africa,
    Vijay Prashad, Michelle Alexander (by video),
    Amina & Amiri Baraka, IMPACT Youth Repertory,
    African Drum & Dance Ensemble, Attorney Michael Coard

Pick up palm cards at Solidarity Center, 55 W. 17th St., 5th Floor,
212-633-6646 anytime after 2 p.m. weekdays. Call 212-330-8029 for bus tickets & other locations for pickup of palm cards.
Buses leave NYC at 3 p.m. from 33rd St. and 8th Ave., $20 round trip.


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.

"I Hate The War " -- most requested highlight of the week and strong disagreement with C.I. from our readers over her (and Ava's) opinion of last week's editorial here.

"Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Non-apology" -- Isaiah's take on the insult king.

"Kat's Korner: Doris Day, Rob Crow and what's left unsaid" -- Kat takes on Doris.

"Iraq snapshot" and "Iraq snapshot" -- C.I. reports on a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and on a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee.

"Whitney," "3 women, 3 men," "community," "Whitney," "Idiot of the Week and Nikita" "Variety specials" -- Betty, Ann, Rebecca, Marcia, Mike and Elaine cover TV.

"Jane Fonda's Prime Time" and "judy blume" -- Ruth reviews a book, Rebecca notes an author.

"Whitney" and "Tammy Tell Me True" -- Betty and Stan go to the movies.

"The 'B' stands for 'bitchy'" and "THIS JUST IN! LOOK WHO'S BEING BITCHY!" -- does he understand his job description?

"The embarrassing Scott Horsley" -- Betty takes on NPR's stooge.

"70s in the Kitchen" -- Trina serves up a recipe from the 70s.

"No leadership from Nancy" -- Ruth on the insider trading in Congress.

"Those Grammy nominations" -- Kat weighs in on the Grammy nominations.

"That stupid Bradley Manning Support Network" -- Marcia calls out the 'support' network that works to insist Bradley's guilty.

"Sunset Campaign" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

"Talking post" -- Elaine offers a talkng post.

"Congressional hearings required" -- Trina on the need for hearings into secret loans made by the government to various banks.

"OWS didn't bill the 1%" -- Ruth on who got stuck with the bill.

"Today's Iraq vote (C.I.)" -- C.I. fills in for Kat.

"My ex-girlfriend in HD" -- Marcia offers a personal post.

"Real news" and "The time and media wasting OWS" -- Elaine and Mike on what really matters.

"The American souring on Barry O" and "THIS JUST IN! FOCUSING ON HIMSELF!" -- self-love at its most ugly.

"The paper gets called out" -- Stan explains the score.
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