Saturday, September 25, 2010







Yesterday the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing where, see yesterday's snapshot, Senators Jim Webb and Jon Tester launched an attack on Vietnam veterans. And to those who e-mailed insisting Jim Webb is a Vietnam veteran, so? He attacked John Kerry in a 2004 column (he didn't like John speaking against the war) and he's written the most racist and vile caricatures of the Vietnamese (yes, he's currently married to a Vietnamese-American -- South Vietnamese and, yes, that does make a difference in his mind). Jim Webb's disgraced himself. Kat reported on the hearing at her site in "Jim Webb: The new Bob Dole," Wally reported on it at Rebecca's site in "Senate Veterans Affairs hearing (Wally)" and Ava reported on it at Trina's site in "Senator Roland Burris (Ava)." Michael Leon (Veterans Today) reports on it in "Shinseki Fights off Veterans' Enemy Sen. James Webb, Defends Agent Orange Benefits." Leon's strong report opens with:
This morning, while posturing as the earnest student of empirical investigation, Webb prefaced his hostile line of questioning of witness Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki saying Webb is concerned about protecting the "credibility of our [VA] programs."
I was hoping Shinseki would pull out a can of aerosol composed of dioxin [tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD)] and offer to spray it around the Committee room and see if anyone of the august senators had a presumptive problem with it.
Chuck Palazzo (Veterans Today) notes that Senators Bernie Sanders and Jay Rockefeller stood up for veterans in the hearing. Having attended the hearing yesterday, I am noting Committee Chair Daniel Akaka also needs to be noted -- he is a soft spoken person and has to maintain a role as Chair but even with both of those things, he still made very clear in his opening where he stood. Senator Patty Murray made clear that she supported veterans, Mark Begich appeared to be coming out in support ("appeared" because I really don't know him, his words indicated support but I don't know his record and I don't know him). The strongest voice in the hearing was Senator Roland Burris. You can see Ava's report or you can watch the hearing which is at Palazzo's link and which is also online here at the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs website. David Rogers (Politico) notes:
In comments later, Webb told POLITICO that he would like to return more decision-making power to Congress itself, rather than leave so much discretion to a single Cabinet secretary. And Webb said he was also attracted to a proposal by Principi to take a more incremental approach in the case of common diseases -- and put emphasis on medical care before disability payments.
Now we're going to talk numbers so that we all get just what a s**t Jim Webb is. The Bush tax cuts were set to expire. Webb supports extending all of them -- not just the middle class and working class and working poor but also the top earners in the country. Paul Krugman (New York Times) explained why that was such a bad idea last month:
What's at stake here? According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to following the Obama proposal, would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the sake of comparison, it took months of hard negotiations to get Congressional approval for a mere $26 billion in desperately needed aid to state and local governments.
And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But that's the least of it: the policy center's estimates say that the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. Take a group of 1,000 randomly selected Americans, and pick the one with the highest income; he's going to get the majority of that group's tax break. And the average tax break for those lucky few -- the poorest members of the group have annual incomes of more than $2 million, and the average member makes more than $7 million a year -- would be $3 million over the course of the next decade.
Now it's tacky and appalling to put a dollar amount on the issue of care -- especially needed care resulting from the government playing reckless with human lives -- but Leo Shane III (Stars & Stripes) reports, "According to VA estimates, the move could cost more than $13 billion in compensation payouts in the next 18 months." $680 billion. Wow. Kind of dwarfs the $13 billion figure, doesn't it? Webb has his priorities and they just don't appear to include veterans.

Meanwhile Jason Ditz ( reports, "The FBI is confirming that this morning they began a number of 'raids' against the homes of antiwar activists, claiming that they are 'seeking evidence relating to activities concerning the material support of terrorism'." Karmically, the news breaks on the same day that the National Lawyers Guild issues a new report, Heidi Boghosian's [PDF format warning] "The Policing of Political Speech: Constraints on Mass Dissent in the US." .In her intro, Boghosian notes, "To know that the United States is undergoing a highly orchestrated curtailment of personal and political liberties, one need not look further than police treatment of protesters in the streets. Those who speak out against government policies increasingly face many of the same types of weaponry used by the U.S. governmen tin its military operations." Still from the introduction:
Police preparation for mass assemblies routinely involves infiltration and spying on activist groups, sometimes years in advance, including the use of agents provocateurs. Time and time again, millions of dollars have been obtained by police departments for personnel and equipment at large events justified by confidential informant testimony that large numbers of 'anarchists' are planning to attend and engage in violence. Closer examination of the facts often reveals the falsity of such allegations: numerous police infrormants, many with criminal backgrounds, admit when later questioned that activist groups they infiltrated never planned any violent activities. Indeed millions more have been spent paying damages to the demonstrators victimized by these tactics.
New anti-terrorism legislation and prosecution practices have resulted in individuals being charged with conspiracy to riot merely by virtue of having helped organize a protest at which other individuals unknown to them were arrested. As evidence of conspiracy to riot, the government cites such First Amendment protected activities as attending meetings, writing about protests, organizing protests, and engaging in rhetorical or politically charged speech.
Faulty intelligence gathering and grossly attenuated criminal charges are accompanied by additional strategies to quell dissent. Asserting the need to defend against terrorism and protect national security, the government targets leaders of social and political movements, employs grand juries to search for evidence of political affiliation, stigmatizes groups of activists, and uses the mass media to denigrate demonstrators, reinforce negative stereotypes or publicize high-profile arrests on charges which are frequently later dropped for lack of evidence.
We will note the report in more detail next week. Heidi co-hosts WBAI's Law and Disorder Radio (10:00 a.m. EST Mondays -- also plays on other stations around the country throughout the week) with fellow attorneys Michael Ratner and Michael Smith. The report may be discussed on one of the shows in the next weeks and, if so, we will note it then as well. On today's raids, Jacob Wheeler (The UpTake -- link has video) speaks with Mick Kelly who was among the activists whose homes were raided today.
Mick Kelly: The FBI has raided my home. Right now there's about ten, twelve FBI agents rummaging through my papers, documents. They've confiscated computers, they've taken my passport, etc.
Jacob Wheeler: And we're in the Hard Times Cafe in Cedar-Riverside and your apartment is just upstairs from the cafe, right?
Mick Kelly: That's correct.
Jacob Wheeler: So there are agents upstairs right now?
Mick Kelly: That's correct.
Jacob Wheeler: How many?
Mick Kelly: Ten to twelve.
Jacob Wheeler: When did they arrive?
Mick Kelly: Several hours ago.
Jacob Wheeler: And what did they say -- Approximately what time? Any guess?
Mick Kelly: I'm going to say 7:30.
Jacob Wheeler: Okay. What did they tell you? What interaction did you have with them?
Mick Kelly: Well I wasn't there. I was at work.
Jacob Wheeler: Okay.
Mick Kelly: And I received a call that they were there. They came in -- my understanding is they came in guns drawn, kicked the door open, smashed a fish tank and proceeded to execute a search warrant.
Mick notes he is an antiwar activists and that " I see this as harassment of anti-war activists and those who stand in solidarity with those who are fighting for freedom and justice around the world." Mick was one of the organizers of the protests at the 2008 GOP convention. Ahndi Fridell (Reuters) reports the FBI is admitting to searching "eight homes in Chicago and Minnesota" today and claiming it is "terrorism" related -- or adjacent. Or maybe just a sleepy suburb of. They're not really sure as is evidenced by the fact that eight homes were raided (or the FBI admits to raiding at least eight homes) and not one arrest was made. Not one arrest was made. That's a key point. Along with Mick Kelly, one of the eight homes known to be raided belongs to Jess Sundin. Sarah Laskow (Washington Independent) reports: "Sundin was 'a principal leader of the mass antiwar march of 10,000 on the opening day of the Republican National Convention two years ago,' and Kelly has said he would march on the Democratic National Convention if it were held in Minneapolis this year, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune."

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