Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sharpton is the flim-flam man

Stuart Stevens (Daily Beast) has an article about the national embarrassment that is Al Sharpton.  He starts with the Tawana Brawley hoax and moves on:

Sharpton was a key player inflaming the 1991 Crown Heights riots following the death of a young African-American who was hit by an ambulance driven by a Hasidic driver. Sharpton called Jews “diamond merchants” with “the blood of innocent babies” on their hands. A mob subsequently attacked and murdered an innocent Hasidic Jewish student visiting from Australia. (Twenty-five years later, he wrote a mealy-mouthed not-quite apology for his rhetoric.)
A few years later, an African-American Pentecostal church asked a Jewish tenant of a church-owned property, Freddie Fashion’s Mart, to evict one of his subtenants, an African-American-run record store. Sharpton led protests crying, “We will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business.” One of the protesters attacked Freddie Fashion Mart, shot several customers, and started a fire that killed seven employees.
There are a lot of angry, twisted individuals in America and Sharpton is hardly alone in having spent decades vomiting hate, leaving innocent victims in his wake. What distinguishes Sharpton is the willingness of powerful people and organizations to look past the hate when they believe it may benefit them.
The Democratic Party and its candidates for president in 2004 were perfectly content to have Sharpton appear in presidential debates. Not one candidate called Sharpton out for his outrageous history of hate.
And today one of the great American news organizations, NBC News, is spending millions of dollars to rehabilitate and promote Al Sharpton. Americans have been pretty good at sniffing out and discarding haters, but here is Al Sharpton on NBC and MSNBC being promoted as a credible source of information. Sharpton has gone from manipulating the news with vile accusations to delivering the news for NBC. When the Boston-bombing story broke, there was Al Sharpton delivering breaking news for MSNBC.

It amazes me how with all the talk of MSNBC's tanking ratings, no one makes the connection that hiring a con-man to host a program wasn't a smart thing to do.

That's all Al Sharpton is, a con man.

And he has no remorse.  Stream the documentary and he's still lying, all this time later. 

By the way, the documentary can be streamed at the link.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, June 5, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, "the world has forgotten us" an Iraqi refugee in Jordan declares as more Iraqis begin fleeing to Jordan, Sahar Issa explains fake checkpoints and an unresponsive government, we return to the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on assault and rape, the VA issues a burn pits notice in the Federal Registry, and a PSA for Bradley Manning goes all wrong.

Iraqi journalist Sahar Issa spoke with Marco Werman (PRI's The World, link is audio) about what's taking place in Iraq.  Excerpt.

Sahar Issa:  You will find explosions are targeting mosques and they are targeting commercial areas.  In the neighborhoods where people live, there is fear, there is tension.  At the checkpoints?  There are fake checkpoints where they ask for your name and your i.d.  To tell you the truth, the situation is really quite fearful on the streets. 

Marco Werman:  So you believe this time the government of Iraq is part of the problem?  I mean, it was democratically elected.  Are the people of Iraq unable to voice their grievances right now?

Sahar Issa:  Yes, the situation right now is that the government, since December, has taken -- how do you say?  The face?  We call it an iron face.  You don't see the features, you don't see the expression on the face -- towards the protests that are taking place in the country.  Since December, a great many Sunnis in the western provinces, have risen in order to say that there is a double standard in dealing with many situations that are sectarian in the way that it is being dealt with.  And since that time, the government has taken a stance that 'I do not hear, I do not see, I do not speak.'  It is like a glancing over all of these things.  And it is staying in place.  It is not giving it serious attention that it needs to give.   And since that time, until this very time, every Friday -- because we have Friday prayers that take place at the mosques --  every Friday has been a 'terror Friday.'  We just don't know what is going to happen.  Sunni enclaves become like camps, deployment of Army, deployment of Special Forces, deployment of all military kinds.

Marco Werman:  Terror Friday?  That's pretty ominous.

Sahar Issa: Yes, yes.  I have a son who is going to take his final exams on Saturday and I am terrified.  Should I let him go or not?   

Sahar Issa reported for McClatchy Newspapers -- she was among the women noted by International Women's Media Foundation and she, Shatha al Awsy, Zaineb Obeid, Huda Ahmed, Ban Adil Sarhan and Alaa Majeed were the winners of the International Women's Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award in 2007 for their work in Iraq. There would have been no Iraq reporting without those six women and other Iraqis like Laith Hammoudi, not for McClatchy Newspapers.  But, like CNN, McClatchy grew tired of Iraq.  The reporters who got their names on reporting in the early days -- Nancy A. Youssef, Leila Fadel, Hannah Allam, Roy Gutman, etc. -- never felt the need for more than lip service to these reporters.  Even now, check the Twitter accounts of these lovelies, they can't note Sahar's interview today.  They pretended to be so interested in Sahar when they weren't able to to do anything but hide in their hotel rooms or visit US military bases.  Then they loved Sahar and the others.  They loved them for going out and risking their lives to do the reporting that Nancy and the others would put their names to.  Today, they just forget Sahar.  But Sahar and the others are the only reason McClatchy's reporting from Iraq had any credibility.

As Iraq falls apart, you'd think the news media would actually be more interested. Instead, CNN just shuttered their Baghdad bureau.  No one even commented on it it except in US terms (myself included) but we need to point that out.  CNN isn't just a US channel.  It's an international channel.  It has anchors throughout the world.  Most of the Iraq video reports in the last two years, for example, have aired on CNN World and not on the US CNN.  So when CNN closed down the Baghdad bureau that wasn't just closing down US access to Iraq coverage, it was closing down the whole world (yes, stringers remain for 'breaking news' -- but if what's taking place in Iraq right now doesn't qualify as breaking news requiring a bureau, I'm not sure what does.)  McClatchy could have kept their Iraq blogs active, could have kept their staff.  Didn't want to.  Didn't see the need.  But damned if  they don't clutch at Iraq anytime they need to point to something with pride.

Iraq falls apart and where's McClatchy?

According to the United Nations, April was the most violent month in Iraq in five years . . . until May's total of 1,045 violent deaths made last month the most violent month in Iraq in five years. 
Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 30 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.  National Iraqi News Agency notes that a Mosul car bombing left two people injured, a Falluja bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left a third injured, and the corpse of a murdered woman was found in Diwaniyah ProvinceAlsumaria notes that an "ambush" in Nukhaib has left 14 security personnel dead and a Tikrit bombing has left two Iraqi soldiers injured.  Sahar was talking about the fake checkpoints.  Last week, part of Nouri's photo ops included going around Baghdad and insisting the fake check points do not exist.  We also heard Rami Ruhayem (BBC) dismiss the talk of fake checkpoints and dimiss the over one thousand deaths last month as important when speaking to Meghna Chakrabarti on Here and Now (NPR) -- (see last Friday's snapshot for transcript of those remarks).  They do exist, they've been reported by the Iraqi press many times over the last month and Sahar noted them today.  So does Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) -- the ambush noted above reports that the ambus was carried out "by gunmen pretending to be a military checkpoint on a central Iraq highway, police said in Ramadi."   Spain's Agencia EFE also reports it was a fake checkpoint.  And apparently the BBC has finally found their first fake checkpoint in Iraq.

World Bulletin adds, "Gunmen ambushed a bus and killed 15 passengers in the Iraqi desert on Wednesday, security officials said, as growing sectarian violence raises fears of a return to civil war." NINA also notes tribal chief Sheikh Samad al-Zarkushi was injured when unknown assailants shot at him, a Kirkuk attack left two Iraqi soldiers and one civilian injured, and a former Major Lieutenant Abdullah Suleiman Ali was injured in a Mosul shooting,

"The world has forgotten us.  The west has forgotten us.  Even the UNHCR, they have forgotten us," an Iraqi refugee tells the BBC.  The violence is having many effects including restarting the flow of external refugees.  Matthew Woodcraft (BBC World Service -- link is audio) reports on this development and I've deleted the names of two Iraqi males.  Excerpt.

Matthew Woodcraft: ____ explained how he was new to Amman having decided to make the move from his home city of Baghdad to seek refuge in Jordan just a few weeks ago. "Iraq, she is beautiful," ____ said before exhaling a plume of smoke as he rolled the dice across the board.  "Well, she was," he added, "but we cannot be there anymore.  The religions, it's dangerous. More men arrived sounding lively, with shouts of "Salam alaikum, habibi" -- "hello, my good man" -- and handshakes all around.  Amman is witnessing a new wave of Iraqi refugees as the almost daily bombings across Iraq become ever more bloody.  As the click-clack of dice on wood continued, I spoke with **** one of the organizers of the backgammon evening, in a room away from the other men.  I asked him about the new influx of Iraqis.  This initially jocular man grew serious as he explained, "There are many who are still coming and they cannot work.  They live hand to mouth," he said. going on to tell me how the new arrivals are fleeing with little and in desperate need of help.

In Jordan, Iraqi refugees cannot legally work.  I'm not comfortable identifying by name refugees when it could prevent employment.  Were this a brief story, it would be one thing.  But the Iraqi refugees who fled to Jordan during the ethnic cleansing that began in 2006 have largely not returned.  That's also true in Syria where you're far more likely to find Iraqi Kurds returning than Iraqi Sunni or Shia.

Tom Rogan (The Atlantic) offers his take on Iraq:

Put simply, the ISI [Islamic State of Iraq]'s reconstitution is a symptom of Iraq's deeper political dysfunction. In the 2010 parliamentary elections, (the Sunni supported) Iraqi National Movement of Iyad Allawi won a plurality of seats. But Iraq's current Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, didn't accept the outcome. Following in a troubling tradition of authoritarianism, he was unwilling to give up power. Instead, Maliki promised to form a unity government with Allawi. The idea was that this co-operation would cool tensions and build trust. It hasn't happened. In fact, the opposite has occurred; we've seen renewed arguments over oil sharing, serious disagreements over regional sovereignty, and allegations of high level political harassment. For Maliki it seems, after years of oppression under Saddam Hussein, the incentive for reconciliation isn't an abiding concern.
Then, in April, the crisis literally exploded. First, the Iraqi Government launched a bloody attack against a Sunni protest camp. Next, in a move that reeked of sectarian persecution, Maliki suspended the licenses of a number of media outlets, including Al Jazeera. On May 17, more than 75 Sunnis were killed in various terrorist massacres. Collectively, these actions have fed into a growing groundswell of sectarian anger. Trust is perishing and in the fear, extremists have found new roots of sympathy. With unrelenting ISI attacks, growing government crackdowns and resurgent Shia hardliners, the storm clouds of civil war are gathering.

Deng Shasha (Xinhua) reports:

Hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims on Wednesday gathered at the climax of a religious ritual at the holy golden-domed shrine in northern the Iraqi capital of Baghdad amid tightened security measures.
Every year, on the very date of the Islamic calendar, the Shiites gather at the mausoleum of Imam Musa al-Kadhim in Baghdad' s northern district of Kadhmiyah to commemorate the death of the seventh of the most revered 12 Shiite Imams.
During the past few days, large crowds of pilgrims from Iraqi cities and some Muslim countries flocked to the mausoleum in Kadhmiyah to observe the annual commemoration of the Imam's death.

AFP adds, "Mourners were to carry to the shrine a symbolic coffin, marking the 799 AD death of Imam Musa Kadhim, the seventh of 12 revered imams, who is said to have been poisoned."

Today National Iraqi News Agency reports:

The MP, of the Iraqiya coalition, Hamid al-Mutlaq criticized statements made by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on the division of Iraq into three regions also criticized the silence of the government and the Iraqi politicians towards this project, which described dangerous and threaten the unity of Iraq, land and people. He told the National Iraqi News / NINA / on Wednesday 5, June: "The project of occupying Iraq in 2003 is a destructive and divisive project that Iraqi people rejected it uniformly but there are still some of those in power who cooperate with the occupation through secret treaty did not announce to the Iraqi people, including Biden's project. "

It takes an al-Mutlaq to much everything up.  Those were statements that could have been made before yesterday.  Forever behind the times.  From yesterday's snapshot:

  Alsumaria reports that the US Embassy in Iraq denied today media reports that Biden was overseeing Iraq being split into three sections.  The embassy stated that Biden spoke to the three leaders only in attempt to help keep a political dialogue alive between the various blocs.  On his phone calls, he did not raise the issue of dividing Iraq but instead stressed the need for all participants to work together to find some resolution to the crises confronting Iraq.

We'll probably have to note that a few times more.  Of course, if the White House would issue a statement already, it would stop all the nasty talk about Vice President Joe Biden in Iraq (where he's been called "The Godfather of the Divide," "Satanic" and "The Ugly Terrorist" -- and that just the last two weeks).

Turning to the United States . . . 

Nancy Parrish:  Protect Our Defenders is a human rights organization that works with victims of military sexual assault, providing support services and advocating for military ju stice reform. Our experience working directly with sexual assault survivors , active duty and veteran, as well as our work educating the public and policy makers on this issue have left us critically aware of the shortfalls within the current system and the need to implement fundamental reforms. The argument currently circulating that sexual assault reform is an old problem, predominantly solved through recent changes in the law, is simply not correct. It is well understood that the numbers are going up not down. We regularly receive desperate pleas from current victims of sexual assault, who are having their attempts to report thwarted, mishandled, or swept under the rug. Increasingly we intervene, hiring lawyers, to block retaliation and reverse errant medical diagnoses. We frequently hear from highly rated service members, who soon after they report, suffer persecution, are isolated in psych wards with wrongful diagnoses, or become targets of investigations. Soon after, they are frequently being forced out of the service. One soldier explained, quote: "I got raped by this bastard.  When I tried to talk to my squad leader I got shut down and reminded that he [the rapist] was a Senior NCO.  I waited and spoke with my platoon SFC, Sgt. First Class, and Lt., [ And, they told my perpetrator.]  Then, I got told if I say another word to anyone, I was going to be charged with adultery. I was sent back to the states. I told my squad leader and the next thing I get told they are chaptering me on an adjustment disorder. I am one of the 'Unreported statistics' but not without trying.  He is free and able to do it again as long as he wears the Uniform.  The Uniform represents a Protective Shield if you're a rapist with rank." A mother reported to us, quote: "Our daughter's career and life nearly ended on base 4/7/12, days before her tech training was to begin. That day other service member(s) her cigarettes laced with embalming fluid and raped her.  She was locked up, prescribed medications, denied repeated requests for expedited transfer.   Only weeks later, Command initiated an Article 15 letter of reprimand and proceeded to discharge her with an errant medical diagnosis. This was later overturned with outside legal assistance. She endured months of anguish, hospitalizations, humiliation, punishment --  having to clean and work in the area where she was assaulted a second time raped, sodomized, threatened reporting further , and forced to live in close proximity to her perpetrators.  A letter is attached the to Committee from the mother.  Last year, an officer of 18 years , still on active duty , said: I was deployed overseas. The first advice you get when you get there: Always carry a knife. Even in the daylight, almost every woman carried a knife. Not for battle against the Taliban, but to cut the person who tries to rape her. I was drugged and raped.  If you report people are going to ostracize you.   If you report rape you are done. Check their crime records here, and [see] how many IG complaints were pushed under the rug.  Why? Because, the IG office is also a deployment position. They don't want to deal with big issues, because it takes too long to investigate." USAF Lt  Adam Cohen is on active duty. He deployed three times for Operation Enduring Freedom, flying over 40 combat missions in Afghanistan. Lt Cohen is an example of a failed system, a system that permits the weakest within it to suffer manipulation and castigation for having the temerity to come forth with an allegation of sexual assault. According to Lt Cohen, for years he suffered blackmail, at the hands of his assailant and his assailant's friends , designed to keep him from coming forward with his allegation. When he finally came forward, he was initially ignored by Air Force law enforcement. Pressing his claim further, he was punished by investigators and manipulated into providing evidence that was meant not to hold his assailant accountable, but rather to prosecute him. Through the actions of the Air Force, Lt Cohen's alleged assailant still on active duty is statutorily barred from prosecution, while Lt Cohen remains the subject of a constitutionally suspect prosecution. He has been retaliated against, attacked , and denied an expedited transfer. Upon learning the expedited transfer was denied, SVC Major Bellflower asked the commander to provide a safety plan. If we are to make any headway in curbing sexual assault in the military, we must act to protect those that come forward , by ensuring that the system does not punish them for doing so. 

Nancy Parrish was speaking at yesterday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on assault and rape in the ranks of the military.  We covered the first panel -- made up of the top military brass -- in yesterday's snapshot, Kat covered it in "Senator Kirsten Gillibrand didn't come to play," Wally covered it in "Senator Bill Nelson sets the tone " and Ava covered it in "Saxby Chambliss' gross stupidity."  Kat's Gillibrand was especially important because (as Kat notes) I missed her.  It was hot in the room, it was crowded and I had to step away to hurl.  Senator Gillibrand is leading the charge to remove an ability from the command that they don't want removed.  Her bill is opposed not just by Republicans on the Committee like Ranking Member James Inahofe but also by Democrat and Committee Chair Car Levin.  Wally writes about the way the first panel -- chiefly Gen Martin Dempsy (Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Gen Ray Odierno (Chief of Staff of the Army), Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert (Chief of Naval Operations), Gen James Amos (Commandant of the Marine Corps), Gen Mark Welsh (Chief of Staff of the Air Force) and Admiral Robert Papp Jr. (Commandant of the Coast Guard) -- showed deference to the male senators but were openly combative towards female senators (until Senator Bill Nelson came down hard -- he spoke slowly, firmly and loudly and seemed to get attention in doing so).  Ava points out that Senator Chambliss just doesn't get it.  The 69-year-old idiot thinks rape is the result of just being horny.  (He also thinks women hit their sexual peak in young adult hood -- as males do -- which just demonstrates how out of touch with science he is.)  At The New Yorker today, Andy Borowitz mocks Chambliss' remarks.

The hearing had three panels.  Today, we're going to note some exchanges from the third panel which was composed of Parish, retired Capt Anu Bhagwati who is executive director of Service Women's Action Network, retired Maj Gen John D. Altenburg Jr. (Chair of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Armed Forces Law) and retired Col Lawrence J. Morris (General Counsel, Catholic University).

SWAN's is endorsing proposed bills before the Congress.  Anu Bhagwati noted that in her opening remarks and noted that all the bills they were supportive of were in her written statement submitted for the record.  We'll note that section of Bhagwati's written statement:

Mr. Chairman, several bills related to military sexual violence have been introduced in recent weeks by members of this Committee and other congressional champions for reform. Some bills address the need to improve victim services, some address the critical need for UCMJ reform, and others are focused on the impact that sexual assault and sexual harassment have on veterans. The majority of these are bipartisan and bicameral, which speaks to the collective approach required to see real change happen. I would like to highlight these bills and urge the committee to give them serious consideration as it moves forward with this year’s Defense Authorization Act: 
S. 538 which modifies the authority of commanders under Article 60.  
S. 548 the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act which requires retention of all sexual assault reports, restricted and unrestricted for 50 years, and requires substantiated complaints of sexual-related offenses be placed in the perpetrator's personnel record. S. 871 the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act which would require the Air Force's special victims counsel program be implemented DOD-wide, prohibit sexual acts and contact between instructors and trainees, provide enhanced oversight responsibilities to the SAPRO offices and make SARCs available to all National Guard troops. 
S. 967 the Military Justice Improvement Act, a critical bill that professionalizes the military justice system by ensuring that trained, professional, impartial prosecutors control the keys to the courthouse for felony- level crimes while still allowing commanders to maintain judicial authority over crimes that are unique to the military and requiring more expeditious and localized justice to ensure good order and discipline. 
S. 992 which would require SAPR personnel billets to be nominative positions. 
S. 1032 the BE SAFE Act that would mandate dismissal or dishonorable discharge of those convicted for specific sex crimes, remove the 5 year statute of limitations on sexual assault cases and allow for consideration for accused transfer from the unit. 
S. 1041 the Military Crimes Victim Act that extends crime victims’ rights to offenses under the UCMJ. S. 1050 the Coast Guard STRONG Act that requires the Coast Guard to implement sexual assault prevention and response reforms. 
S. 1081, the Military Whistle Blowers Enhancement Act which would help protect victims from retaliation and reprisal by expanding protections under the existing Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act for federal workers, require timely IG investigations, ensure discipline for those who retaliate and improve corrective relief for victims. 
Unless and until we professionalize the military justice system, and afford service members at least the same access to legal redress that civilian victims have, including critical access to civil suits, we will not change this culture. Military perpetrators will continue to be serial predators, taking advantage of a broken system to prey on victims, and tens of thousands of victims of rape, assault, and harassment will continue to suck up their pain, trauma, shame and humiliation, year after year, and decade after decade, with no hope for justice. 

 The bill Senator Gillibrand is sponsoring is S. 967.  Again:

S. 967 the Military Justice Improvement Act, a critical bill that professionalizes the military justice system by ensuring that trained, professional, impartial prosecutors control the keys to the courthouse for felony- level crimes while still allowing commanders to maintain judicial authority over crimes that are unique to the military and requiring more expeditious and localized justice to ensure good order and discipline.

We note it specifically above because in the excerpt below, Committee Chair Carl Levin will spend a great deal of time on Gillibrand's bill. 

Chair Carl Levin: First is the question of retaliation.  What we know, long before today's hearing -- but emphasized at today's hearing -- is that most of the women who do not report -- or most of the troops who do not report -- men or women -- do not do so because, uhm, they are afraid of retaliation.  A huge percentage are much afraid of a -- of a humiliation or embarrassment.  But it's the retaliation issue we want to put some focus on or at least I want -- I think all of us want -- to put some focus on.  The question is, uhm, whether or not -- and I think Ms. Bhagwati, you made reference to one of the bills here, Senator Gillibrand's bill which would require that serious offenses be sent to a new disposition authority, outside the chain of command for determination of whether or not the allegations should be prosecuted at a general or a special court-martial.  And my question is, would do that, how-how would doing that stop retaliation?  That's the question I guess I'll ask of you, Ms. Bhagwati.

Anu Bhagwati: The first thing it will do is restore faith and trust in the system.  Right now, victims don't have any of that.  They've lost all hope in the military justice system unfortunately. Retaliation happens in many respects.  We see on a day-to-day basis, our callers -- both service members and veterans who have recently been discharged -- have been punished with anything from personal retaliation from roommates and family members to professional retaliation by their chain of command from the lowest levels to the highest levels -- platoon sergeants all the way up the chain.  They are also retaliated in more insidious ways.  They're given false diagnoses -- mental health diagnoses like personality disorders which bar them from service, which force them to be discharged, which ban them from getting VA services, VA benefits.  So it's comprehensive retaliation.

Chair Carl Levin:  Mr. Altenburg, let me ask you a question about the investigative process. Uh, uhm, Col King said that the investigation in the Marines -- and I think this is generally true -- is handled by professional investigators.  Is that your understanding?

John D. Altenburg:  That's my understanding.  And that's a recent change -- I mean in the last three years, I think.

Chair Carl Levin: Now have you read -- have you read the bill Senator Gillibrand's bill?

John D. Altenburg:   I have.

Chair Carl Levin:  If there were a new disposition authority created, independent of the chain of command, that would make a determination of whether allegations should be prosecuted at a court-martial or not?  Would that effect the investigation processes?

John D. Altenburg:  I don't think it would necessarily. They left the investigation with the CID in the Army, the CIS in the other service and the OSI and they'd do their investigation and then it would get passed, I guess, to this court-martial command -- is what it was called fifty years ago, when people tried to do that.

Chair Carl Levin:  Now in terms of -- Who would -- Who would make the decision as you read the bill?  Who would make the determination as to whether an offense meets the threshold of a serious offense that would have to be referred to the new disposition authority?  Who would make that determination?

John D. Altenburg:  Excuse me, sir, I assume a lawyer would.  Uhm, just as now, lawyers make -- not command d --

Chair Carl Levin:  Lawyer?  Which lawyer where?

John D. Altenburg:  A prosecutor.

Chair Carl Levin: In that same independent office?  Or -- I mean that's the threshold question of whether or not there's evidence of a serious offense or not so that new independent approach would be triggered.  Who would make that, as you read the bill?

John D. Altenburg:  As I read the bill, a lawyer in the staff Judge Advocate would make that call -- as I read the bill. 

Chair Carl Levin: Alright.

John D. Altenburg:  Senator Levin, if you please, 

Chair Carl Levin:  Does anyone else have a -- Yeah, go on.  Go on.

John D. Altenburg:  I beg your indulgence in making a couple of comments -- one related to retaliation, the other regarding investigations.  Investigations have now become mandatorily done by the professional investigation services.  That's a change that was a response to this problem.   And second, with regards to retaliation, I think it's even more complex and subtle than Ms. Bhagwati talks about.  I agree with everything that she said, that she's experienced, but it's so subtle that it can just be soldiers attending an investigative hearing and glowering at the victim to make her feel uncomfortable.

Chair Carl Levin: Do you have any suggestions as to how we can get to the peer pressure type of retaliation?

John D. Altenburg: I think the only way to get to that is through the command, is through the leadership.  They have to seize this issue.  They have to understand the cultural dimensions of it, realize how unique the military is in terms of the vulnerabilities of the victim and-and the opportunity for this predator mentality that is like a wolf around a pack of sheep that seeks out different types of people and tests them and probes them and then finally decides to strike when they're one-on-one -- I mean whether they do it subliminally or whether they do it with malice of forethought, they are predators to the nth degree.  And many of them, we're finding from studies are repeat offenders and they're serial offenders.  And some of the things that have been suggested to keep people from coming in the military that have that kind of background will help solve this.  But that mentality and that culture is what the leaders will have to attack.  The same way they attacked racism in the seventies and the eighties.  And there were racist Lt. Colonels and Colonels and they got discovered, they got out.  You couldn't cope, you couldn't deal without modifying your behavior or getting out.  And we've done that with several other social issues.  It takes leadership.  And it doesn't mean that all the leaders are going to be the good people and the ones that get it but that's how will effect change in this culture.

[. . .]

Anu Bhagwati:  Senator Reed, I think, if you're suggesting somehow that the military can create a culture of rape or that there's something  --

Senator Jack Reed: No, I'm not.

Anu Bhagwati:  Good because I would disagree with that, that the military creates rapists.  I think, however, we still condone sexual violence in the day-to-day which is different -- and that we still mistreat women.  And I have not met a woman in the military yet who has not experienced some form of discrimination or harassment.  When that is sort of the average of a woman in the military, a culture of harassment is created and sexual predators will thrive in that culture.  These serial predators that are entering the ranks, they're hitting a target rich environment.  They really are.  I think, uh, until we -- until we create systems and policies, until we tighten the military justice system, until we potentially open up new forms of redress like civil suits to service members -- I think we really have to think outside the box here -- we're not going to change that culture.  And the presence of women at the highest echelons of leadership is really important.  I mean, we talked today about the presence of women in the Senate making a difference.  Well, the presence of women in the military also will make a difference but only if there's a critical mass of women and right now there aren't enough women at the top.

A veterans issue we cover often is burn pits and the need for a registry.  This was an issue that was championed by a number of members of Congress who are no longer serving.  Then-Senator Byron Dorgan, for example, worked very hard to lay the groundwork on the issue.    Dorgan was Chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and they held many hearings on this very serious issue.  Click here to go to the hearing archives page.  Those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan were exposed to damaging (I will say "deadly") fumes as the military required various things -- everything from car batteries to medicines to human waste -- to be burned off in burn pits.  Breathing disorders, cancers and much more have been the result of the use of burn pits.  Disclosure, I know attorney Susan Burke.  Yesterday, Patricia Kim (Navy Times) reported that a case that dismissed is now being appealed:

Alexandria, Va., lawyer Susan Burke and attorneys from the South Carolina firm Motley & Rice filed an appeal Wednesday arguing that Maryland U.S. District Court Judge Roger Titus’s decision in February to toss out 57 consolidated lawsuits filed against KBR, Inc., was “non-justifiable.”Titus ruled Feb. 28 that as a government contractor working in a war zone, KBR was entitled to the same legal protection and immunity as U.S. armed forces operating in combat. He also argued that the court did not have jurisdiction to rule on decisions made by another branch of government.
But in their appeal filed in the Fourth Circuit, the plaintiffs’ attorneys said KBR often did not follow military directives while operating burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, effectively negating any “sovereign immunity” the company may have had.

In addition,  Secretary of the VA Eric Shinseki has had the following announcement published in the government's Federal Register:

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is announcing an opportunity for public comment on the proposed collection of certain information by the agency. Under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995, Federal agencies are required to publish notice in the Federal Register concerning each proposed collection of information, including each proposed new collection, and allow 60 days for public comment in response to the notice. This notice solicits comments for information needed to ascertain and monitor the health effects of the exposure of members of the Armed Forces to toxic airborne chemicals and fumes caused by open burn pits.


Table of Contents Back to Top

DATES: Back to Top

Written comments and recommendations on the proposed collection of information should be received on or before August 5, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Back to Top

Submit written comments on the collection of information through the Federal Docket Management System (FDMS) at; or to Cynthia Harvey-Pryor, Veterans Health Administration (10B4), Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20420 or email: Please refer to “OMB Control No. 2900-NEW, Open Burn Pit Registry Airborne Hazard Self-Assessment Questionnaire,” in any correspondence. During the comment period, comments may be viewed online through FDMS.


Cynthia Harvey-Pryor at (202) 461-5870 or Fax (202) 495-5397.

For more information on burn pits you can visit Burn Pits 360.

Lastly,  Old Man Ellsberg.  Daniel Ellsberg came to national attention over forty years ago when he leaked The Pentagon Papers (finally) to the press. Today he uses his fame sometimes to help political prisoner Bradley Manning.  "I'm sure that President Obama would have sought a life sentence in my case," he tells Timothy B. Lee (Washington Post).  From the interview:

Daniel Ellsberg:  That may actually have the effect of waking people up to the fact that, for example, Attorney General Holder has been violating the Constitution steadily, and that he should be fired. But fired for what? For doing what had the approval of the president.
Holder should be fired for a whole series of actions culminating in this subpoena for James Rosen’s cellphone records. I think that would be the first step of resistance in the right direction, of rolling back Obama’s campaign against journalism, freedom of the press in national security.

TL: Is government surveillance of journalists more alarming than prosecution of leakers?

DE: Absolutely, but the two go together a little more than might be obvious. First of all, there’s no question that President Obama is conducting an unprecedented campaign against unauthorized disclosure. The government had used the Espionage Act against leaks only three times before his administration. He’s used it six times. He’s doing his best to assure that sources in the government will have reason to fear heavy prison sentences for informing the American public in ways he doesn’t want.

Well thank goodness you were warning people in real time, Danny.  Oh wait, in 2012, just like in 2008, you were going around telling people to vote for Barack Obama.  Which means you're an unethical whore.  If it matters so much today, it damn well should have mattered last year.

Let's review: Monday April 5, 2010WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor."  February 28th, Bradley told the court he was the whistle blower who provided WikiLeaks with the documents.

All the dates involving Bradley?  They happened after Barack became President of the United States.  So if you whored whatever was left of your name to churn out the vote for Barack, why the hell should anyone listen to you?  I didn't endorse anyone in 2012.  There's no obligation to endorse anyone. In America -- and maybe we need to stress this more often -- you have the right to keep your mouth shut.  You don't have to offer an opinion on every damn thing.

Having endorsed Barack, you either pull that endorsement now (granted it has no meaning other than symbolic at this point) or you really need to just stop talking publicly.  We pointed this out when Daniel was making an ass out of himself in the presidential election.

We point it out now because he seems to think he's got some pull?  No, he doesn't.  He whored what was left of his name.  His influence is now nothing but the extreme fringes.  And, worse, now he's part of a ridiculous PSA for Bradley that plays like a hell week on The Merv Griffin Show.  That's the best they could get?  Two tons of non-fun Leslie Cagan?  Our Closeted Communist is going to lead us?  Into what?  Political Closets, one size fits all?  Cagan is one of the biggest whores for Barack.  Cagan is notorious for that.  She can't speak on any campus outside of NYC because she is loathed, she is known for what she did.  Cagan was the main face for United for Peace and Justice and as much of a leader as a Closeted Communist can be.  She used UFPJ to attack Bully Boy Bush and then she folded tent immediately after the 2008 election.  We get credit for labeling her a "Piss Queen" and not a "Peace Queen."  That was actually a group of students at UCLA who, when I mentioned the awful Leslie, began chanting "Piss Queen."  I was confused and thinking, "This crowd is very pro-Leslie." Then I realized what they were saying.  Leslie's hated on campuses across America.  The left youth will not be fooled by her ever again.

The PSA is a lot like the infamous episode of The Merv Griffin Show where Rick Springfield and Betty Buckley are on the couches and Merv brings out The Village People in their brief new romantic phase.  Maggie and Oliver are Betty and Rick.   Look, there's failed author Alice Walker, who can't stop singing Barack's praises and refuses to call out Barack even though he declared Bradley guilty, in public, back in April of 2011. (No, he's not supposed to 'weigh in' about ongoing legal issues -- in fact, that's the excuse Jay Carney hides behind when the press presses him on the Justice Dept spying of the press.)  Alice Walker, no longer at a real publishing house, unable to move books in decades, quite the comedown for an author who, as late as the 90s, still had a career.  A woman now more famous for refusing to see her grandchild or speak to her only daughter.  That's someone to get people excited?  Oh, look, there's the failed everything who thought he could insult Keanu Reeves and also have a film career.  Well, kind of like his music career, it didn't work out that way.

Speaking of music careers, there's Tom Morello which would really be something a decade or so ago.  I don't want to put too much on this point because we ignored it here but you don't applaud someone's choice to kill themselves. You don't.  You might respect it, but you don't applaud it.  We ignored it because I felt the person was being used.  I didn't feel the person wanted to take his own life.  And it turns out, he didn't.  But it's a real shame that people around like Tom were more interested in his taking his own life for a political reason than they were in his continuing to live.  I really think after that, Tom needs to step away from the spotlight -- unless of course Tom plans to take his own life.  He could egg on a veteran to do that, go around granting interviews about it, creating hysteria around it.  Well, okay, Tommy, why don't you take your life?  Better idea, why don't you stay away from that veteran from now on?  You've done more than enough damage.  (Ann did write about this at her site.)

And those are some of the reasons the PSA is a failure.  But the main reason it's a failure is Tom.  At the end of the video Morello declares, "If you know nothing about Bradley Manning, you should find out, and then you should help me bust him out of jail."

I'm sure someone thought that was cute and funny.  It's not.  Breaking someone out of a military jail?  That would be a crime.  And the case already makes the public wary.  So you're idea of drumming up support for Bradley is to be 'provocative'?  This isn't a concert stage, this is real life and that little line at the end did not garner Bradley support.  It probably sent people on the fence running.  There's a reason people are on the fence.  (I'm not on the fence, I support Bradley and think all charges should be immediately dropped.  I think there should be protests outside the White House daily about this.)  What he's accused of doing is scary to a lot of people.

We saw this with Lynne Stewart.  Lynne is not a terrorist.  She's an attorney who gave her time and energy to defend people of all walks of life.  She was The People's Attorney.  You can't call her that and get a conviction so you lie and you call her a terrorist and then people who would otherwise support her fear being associated with a 'terrorist' so they do nothing.  Lynne's only 'crime' was giving a press release to Reuters.  But she's in prison, most likely dying from cancer, and even now a lot of people won't speak up for her.  That is the climate.  And it's not surprising or really unique to this era.  So to do a PSA about someone controversial and instead of normalizing him -- which is what the entire video, until the end, is supposed to be about it -- you start talking about busting him out of jail?  Brad's been painted as a terrorist and this PSA will panic more people on the fence than pull them to support Brad.  Tom's an idiot and so is whoever okayed that line to be in the video -- it completely undermines the intended message.

The PSA is a complete and utter failure and we didn't even touch on the rank sexism or the hilarity of using Chris Hedges.  Which Village People person was Chris supposed to be?  I guess whichever one was the first to promote a false link between Iraq and 9-11.

AP's Patrick Semansky has an interesting report on the way the military guards escorting Bradley have kept him out of sight, preventing photographers from getting a picture.

mcclatchy newspapers
sahar issa