February 2008 archive

Help veterans, call your Congressmen about H.R. 5448


Rep. Tom Allen Praises VA Decision to Change Rule on Proving PTSD is Service-Connected

Tuesday February 19, 2008

Says passage of the Full Faith in Veterans Act is still necessary “to ensure that our veterans receive the highest quality of care”

Portland, Maine (February 19, 2008) — U.S. Representative Tom Allen today issued the following statement in response to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) decision to no longer require combat veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while on active duty to provide written documentation that they witnessed or experienced a traumatic event during their service that caused their PTSD.  On February 11th, Representative Allen unveiled H.R. 5448, the Full Faith in Veterans Act at an Augusta press conference with veterans and representatives of veterans service organizations.  


Four at Four

  1. Ruh-roh. The Financial Times reports Bernanke predicts bank failures. “Some small US banks are likely to fail as a result of the housing crisis, Ben Bernanke said yesterday, warning that his country faced a more difficult situation than in the aftermath of the dotcom bust in 2001. ‘There will probably be some bank failures,’ the Fed chairman told the Senate banking committee in his second day of biannual testimony to Congress. He said the banks at risk were ‘small and in many cases de novo [new] banks that are heavily invested in real estate in localities where prices have fallen’.”

    And seven years of conservative economic policies and governance has left the United States in a “weaker position to respond to the negative growth shock today than it was in 2001.” The U.S. had one war in Afghanistan in 2001, it has two today. The dollar was strong in 2001, it is weak today. The price of oil was $20 a barrel in 2001, it is is over $100 a barrel today. George W. Bush, the Republicans, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan have destroyed the U.S. ecnonomy. Don’t worry about them though, they’re making out like bandits. Oh, and when those small banks fail, guess who will be doing the bailout? Yup, poor and middle class taxpayers.

  2. Another result of conservative military policy under George W. Bush. The Guardian reports that the Afghanistan mission is close to failing.

    After six years of US-led military support and billions of [dollars] in aid, security in Afghanistan is ‘deteriorating’ and President Hamid Karzai’s government controls less than a third of the country, America’s top intelligence official has admitted.

    Mike McConnell testified in Washington that Karzai controls about 30% of Afghanistan and the Taliban 10%, and the remainder is under tribal control…

    A big injection of foreign troops has failed to bring stability. The US has almost 50,000 soldiers in Afghanistan and – twice as many as in 2004 – while the UK has 7,700, mostly in Helmand. Another 2,200 US marines are due to arrive next month to combat an expected Taliban surge.

    Nato commanders paint the suicide bombs and ambushes as signs of a disheartened enemy… But analysts believe the Taliban is successfully adapting the brutal guerrilla tactics that have served Iraqi insurgents so well.

    Earlier in the week Sen. Joe Biden warned of failure in Afghanistan. Biden called on NATO to bail out the Bush administration’s failed policy in Afghanistan. “NATO must be ‘fully in the fight’ in Afghanistan – nothing less than the future of the alliance is at stake, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told a luncheon crowd at the Council on Foreign Relations. ‘Many of our NATO allies thought they were signing up for a peacekeeping mission, not counter-insurgency operations,’ said Biden, D-Del. ‘Many are fighting with incredible bravery in the south. But the so-called ‘national caveats’ are making a mockery of NATO – and the notion of a unified mission.'” If Bush didn’t have the military distracted in Iraq, things would have gone differently in Afghanistan.

  3. The New York Times reports Turkey withdraws troops from Northern Iraq. “Turkey’s military announced it had withdrawn all of its troops from northern Iraq by Friday morning, bringing an eight-day ground offensive against Kurdish guerrillas to a close… Reports differed on the extent of the withdrawal, with an American military official in Iraq and a representative for the Kurdish fighters saying some troops were still in the country. The Turkish military… said that the ground campaign in which 24 Turkish soldiers and as many as 243 Kurdish fighters were killed had simply run its course as its goals had been met.”

There are bonus stories about space soot and Maya blue beneath the fold.

Buckle up . . . .

Here we go again!  Only this time it’s not anthrax, it’s ricin!

Ricin has been found in a motel room in Las Vegas.

Feb. 29 (Bloomberg) — Seven people were hospitalized, one of them in a coma, after a substance believed to be the deadly toxin ricin was discovered yesterday in a Las Vegas hotel room. . . .

The FBI, which is cooperating with the inquiry, said there is no reason to suspect terrorism. Ricin is made from castor beans and has no antidote. Alternative uses include experimental cancer treatments. . . .

Federal officials have warned police departments to look out for ricin, which could be deadly in the hands of terrorists. It may be used to contaminate air-conditioning systems, drinking water or lakes, the FBI has said. . . .

Traces of ricin were also found five years ago in a London apartment during a British-based counterterrorism raid.

But not to worry!  Bush has already taken action!!!!!!

President Bush and Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff speak in regards to emerging Las Vegas ricin incident.

Washington, DC (Rotters) – President Bush, appearing with Homeland security Director Michael Chertoff early this morning at a White House press conference, officially elevated the national terror alert system to the color code Orange, representing a high probability for terrorist activities. The elevation came in response to the presumed discovery of the highly toxic chemical ricin at a Las Vegas motel late yesterday.

“Perhaps this might turn out to be a case of premature ejac… er… exaggeration,” stated President Bush in regards to the terror alert,” but we have been simply left with no alternative. I take my duties to protect America very seriously. It is possible that the substance in question might turn out not to be ricin, but without warrantless wiretapping thanks to the Democrat controlled Congress’ inability to pass a bipartisan measure, it may be too late to spread panic before we know for sure.”

Homeland security Director Michael Chertoff seconded the president’s concern. “The reality is that we are ramping up for more of these terror warning elevations, both justified and false alarms, because the truth of the matter is we just don’t know.”

Chertoff went on to say that Homeland security had swung into high gear, and would be investigating nationwide every level of America’s castor bean production, and was considering a national recall of castor oil. Tests later today would likely clarify the identity of the compound and possibly its origins, but Chertoff stated that this would come too late to amplify the necessary initial sense of panic needed.

“I think it’s very ironic that this incident surfaced in Nevada,” concluded Bush. “I hope it will send a message to Senator Reid and other like-minded individuals in Congress that the telephone companies must have immunity so that we’re able to know everything that’s going on in this country ahead of time.”

Satire very close to “home.”

[See the website for the real picture shown — it is priceless.]


Antiwar movement could roar like a lion in March

[AUTHOR’S NOTE:  I retitled this and edited a bit to make it sexier (or should I say more alluring?) Hope that’s kosher.]

Maybe we shouldn’t complain about the news media’s lack of coverage of the antiwar movement. They don’t even cover the issue when it’s debated for two days in the US Senate.

Senate Democrats, failing to pass anything this week, promise to try again in April, when an appropriations bill comes up.  House Democrats are in a “wait til’ next year” mode.

All the more reason to turn up the heat in March.  And there are plenty of opportunities to take action — in Washington or in your hometown — as the 5th anniversary of the invasion approaches on March 19.  

The two proposals to change course in Iraq failed, predictably, this week, perhaps providing an excuse for the media’s lack of interest. (Depending, of course, on whether the chicken or the egg came first.) But what was taking place was nothing less than a matter of life and death, for US service members and Iraqi military and civilians alike.

The number of American service members who have given their lives in Iraq is nearing 4,000. Nearly 30,000 more have been wounded, and countless others have suffered permanent physical or psychological damage that will haunt them, their loved ones, and this country for decades to come. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, and 4 million more have been displaced from their homes and become refugees.

Was the debate front page news? Hardly. It was hardly news at all. Here’s a brief CQ report, in case you missed the news entirely.

That’s all the more reason that the vast majority of Americans who want this senseless bloodshed to end must continue to speak out and act out, at every opportunity.

The sponsors of the two measures which were shelved again in the Senate, Sens. Russ Feingold and Harry Reid, say they will try again in April when appropriations for the war come up, even though House Democrats seem to have adopted a “wait til’ next year” strategy on Iraq.

Between now and then, let’s turn up the heat.

There are plenty of opportunities to do so in March.

Iraq Veterans Against the War will hold Winter Soldier hearings Mar. 13-16 in Washington, DC, modeled on the 1971 hearings held by Vietnam Veterans Against the War.  Here’s how IVAW describes the event:

The four-day event will bring together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan – and present video and photographic evidence. In addition, there will be panels of scholars, veterans, journalists, and other specialists to give context to the testimony. These panels will cover everything from the history of the GI resistance movement to the fight for veterans’ health benefits and support.

You’ll be able to follow live audio and video links on the web, and some groups are now making plans to screen the hearings in public places across the country, too.

The next week, March 19, is the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.  Will we ever forget the shock and awe when we learned we had been duped about the reasons to invade?   United for Peace and Justice, the nation’s largest antiwar coalition, is planning to mark the day:

March 19th will mark the beginning of the 6th year of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Enough is enough! We are organizing creative, nonviolent acts of civil disobedience in Washington DC to interrupt business as usual for those promoting and profiting from war and empire building. Focusing on the pillars of war, our actions will take place at multiple sites, demonstrating the real costs of war and offering visions for a more just and sustainable world, a world at peace.

Actions are bring planned in local communities as well to mark the anniversary.  

Friday, March 21, is Iraq Moratorium #7, a day to take individual or collective action to call for an end to the war and the occupation.  The Moratorium, a national grassroots movement, asks people to do something on the Third Friday of every month to disrupt their normal routine and call for an end to the war.

You’ll find lots of ideas for actions on the Moratorium website , along with a list of events on March 21 and reports, videos and photos of previous actions.  There have been more than 600 group actions under the Iraq Moratorium banner since September.

So, march in March.  Or do something, anything, besides waiting for the election.  Unless we keep the pressure on, a Democratic president and Congress may not make this a priority, either. If you doubt that, ask Nancy Pelosi what she’s doing to end the war.    

The most important thing about being a Democrat: vetting our candidate.

Matt Gonzalez over at BeyondChron.org wrote a brilliant exposé on Barack Obama that must be shared.  The hardest part of trying to get Democrats elected to power is vetting them, especially during election years in which people are so desperate for someone who can deliver on a promise of change that they fail to look past the campaign rhetoric to see the truth.  I’ve explained on other blog sites that Barack Obama is a DLCer in progressive’s clothing.  Mr. Gonzalez hammers the point home.

From Strom to Barack

Strom Thurmond ran for President in 1948 as the segregationist States Rights Democratic Party candidate. The Dixiecrat Party…

a segregationist, populist, socially conservative splinter party of the Democratic Party in the mid-20th century determined to protect what they saw as the Southern way of life against an oppressive federal government.

In other words, blatant racists and righteous believers in the myth of White Superiority to, well….everybody. He did have the decency to become a Republican in 1964. In response, of course to the Civil Rights Act, which he opposed with the longest filibuster in the history of the Senate. He died (finally) in 2003, the year before Senator Obama was elected to the same body.

Senator Robert Byrd, a product of the same southern culture and society still serves, as the longest tenured and oldest Senator we have today. Senator Byrd was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan Unlike Thurmond, though…

“I know now I was wrong. Intolerance had no place in America. I apologized a thousand times … and I don’t mind apologizing over and over again. I can’t erase what happened.”

If We Weren’t All Crazy, We Would Go Insane

Throughout my whole life since I ran away from home for the first time when I was 12 years old with my bicycle, three dollars, the clothes I was wearing, and my transistor radio, through the second time when I was 14 years old and with my friend and one dollar between us we managed to make it nearly two thousand miles towards the west coast hitchhiking, to the final departure at seventeen, I’ve always traveled light with as few attachments to “stuff” and the material world as I could.

Today, at 55, I’m moving once again. I woke up at 6 AM to start packing. It’s now 8 AM. I’m nearly done packing, but the surprising thing is that once again I’ve thrown into the garbage can as much as I’ve packed, with it has gone some of the cobwebs in my mind that I find once again have collected and I don’t need, and still what’s left will barely fit into my friends SUV about an hour from now.

The strange, mysterious, and what I think shouldn’t be but always is surprising thing is that an old familiar friend who hides right in front of my nose has just suddenly re-appeared that I sometimes forget about for long periods while living in any one particular place, and looking around the living room at the stack of boxes I again feel wonderfully light on my feet with anticipation of the umpteenth new start in my life!

I’m going to shut down this computer in the next hour, but I should be back up online within a day or so, and I might even drop in via a friends computer this afternoon.

Pony Party, Phone it in Friday

Shaggy’s Hope…

Dennis Kucinich on the Ohio Primary!

Via NPR.  The audio link’s on the page.

Docudharma Times Friday February 29

This is an Open Thread:

Together we could break this trap

Well run till we drop, baby well never go back

Friday’s Headlines: For Obama, a Taste of What a Long Battle Holds: New High In U.S. Prison Numbers : Moscow official admits media bias: Prince’s cover in Afghanistan blown by Drudge Report: Killed while they played football, the child victims of Israel’s revenge on Gaza: Iran sanctions expected Saturday: U.S. Embrace of Musharraf Irks Pakistanis: Hope for an end to bloodshed in Kenya as leaders sign surprise power-sharing deal: Colombian hostages freed after six years

Democrats Blaze Trails In February Fundraising

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama continued to rewrite fundraising records this month, with Clinton announcing yesterday that she had rebounded from a disappointing showing in January to raise $35 million in February, by far her biggest one-month total of the campaign.

Obama (Ill.), who raised $36 million in January, has not yet announced a total for February, but aides said it will be “considerably more” than that raised by his rival for the Democratic nomination. Their combined total appeared poised to surpass the $71 million raised by President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) in March 2004, the previous record for fundraising by two candidates for the presidency in a single month.

What are you reading?

The regular list

If you like to trade books, try BookMooch.

cfk has bookflurries on Weds. nights

What are you reading? is crossposted to dailyKos

If you have ideas for future weeks, let me know (one idea from last week is Fiction vs. nonfiction, but not this week, as I will not be here to tend this much today)

I haven’t been doing that much reading, I’ve been busy with my series on Congress

Statistical models: Theory and practice by David Freedman.  Delves into the details of models, without getting overly mathematical.  

Alexander Hamilton  by Ron Chernow.  Impressive (as is the subject)

The Art of Mathematics by Bela Belobas.  Interesting, easily stated math problems. For slow solving.

Biplots by Gower and Hand.  Fascinating multivariate technique.  An upcoming diary (maybe Sunday) will feature them.

Araminta Station by Jack Vance.  Just started it, not sure if I will like it

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

The muses are ancient.  The inspirations for our stories were said to be born from them.  Muses of song and dance, or poetry and prose, of comedy and tragedy, of the inward and the outward.  In one version they are Calliope, Euterpe and Terpsichore, Erato and Clio, Thalia and Melpomene, Polyhymnia and Urania.

It has also been traditional to name a tenth muse.  Plato declared Sappho to be the tenth muse, the muse of women poets.  Others have been suggested throughout the centuries.  I don’t have a name for one, but I do think there should be a muse for the graphical arts.  And maybe there should be many more.

Please join us inside to celebrate our various muses…

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