Saturday, May 12, 2012









Today the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy in Iraq Martin Kobler declared, "The main challenge will be to find resettlement countries -- third countries where those people who are then recognized as refugees can re-locate."
Kobler also attempted to spin the violence today insisting 600 people died this year.  Pay a little closer attention and you realize he's just talking about Baghdad.  Since the UN's supposedly concerned with all of Iraq, Kobler's little stunt is pretty offensive.  Iraq Body Count not only notes 55 dead so far this month, they noted 290 dead for the month of April, 295 for the month of March,  278 for the month of February and 458 for the month of January.  That's 1376 reported deaths from violence in Iraq since the start of the year.  That's twice as many as "600."  Again, Kobler was being deliberately misleading.  When the United Nations whores what people remember are the rapes by UN peace keepers (many, many times, but try these two who raped a 14-year-old boy in Haiti), the times the UN did nothing while countries were attacked (Iraq for starters -- and then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan declared the Iraq War illegal) and so much more.  Kobler didn't just make himself into a cheap whore with that little stunt, he reminded everyone of just how flawed -- some would say criminal -- the United Nations can be.  A far more realistic picture on the continued violence came not from Kobler but from a business decision.  Jamal al-Badrani (Reuters) reports, "Mobile phone operator Asiacell has closed its offices in the Iraqi city of Mosul, an al Qaeda stronghold, after attacks and threats by militants, security officials and employees said this week."
Now no more smiling mid-crestfall
No more managing unmanageables
No more holding still in the hailstorm
Now enter your watchwoman
-- "Guardian," written by Alanis Morissette, from her Havoc and Bright Lights due out August 28th; "Guardian" is available for download this Tuesday and she'll be performing it Tuesday night on ABC's Dancing With The Stars.

I had hoped to include some of US House Rep Timothy Waltz's questions from Tuesday's hearing.  We may do that in a snapshot early next week.  But veterans and family members of veterans in this community asked if we could include all of the points (from this morning) regarding the issue of the Veterans Administration's huge backlog.  Mattihias Gafni (Contra Costa Times via Stars and Stripes) reports:

Veterans wait nearly a year on average for their disability claims to get processed at the Oakland, Calif., regional center, according to a highly critical federal report released Thursday, leading one congressman to call the facility a bureaucratic "black hole."The Oakland office, which processes benefits claims for veterans from Bakersfield, Calif., north to the Oregon border, had almost 32,500 claims pending an average of 269 days - 89 days longer than the national target time - when the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general visited in December. As of April, the wait for veterans had increased to 320 average days pending.

This is not the wait time issue that the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on April 25th or that the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on this week.  The issue here is the VA claims processing and the VA's offered tons and tons of excuses over the last years.  They've told Congress it had to do with equipment issues (computers and computer programs -- "IT" problems, that was an especially popular excuse in 2009) and staffing.  In the last years, they've repeatedly insisted that hiring more people wouldn't actually help them because new hires would require training and that would create further delays.  For that argument to be valid, the only ones who can train new claims processors are those people who are claims processors.  Apparently supervisors don't know how to do the job that those they supervise do.

In addition to the claim, the VA's also had to note that production has become an issue.  They have more claims processors than they did in 2005 but the larger number of personnel has coincided with a decrease in the number of claims processed.  So while personnel has increased, productivity has decreased.   And before you think this is because of new veterans being created by today's wars, that's not the case.  Some of these claims have lingered and lingered.  For one example, let's drop back to a February 28th House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing:

Ranking Member Bob Filner: We got several hundred thousand claims for Agent Orange in our backlog. How long have they been fighting it? Thirty, forty years. People get sicker fighting the bureaucracy than they did with the Agent Orange. So you know what we ought to do -- aside from greatly expanding eligibility to boots on the ground, to the blue waters, to the blue skies and Thailand and Cambodia and Laos and Guam? We ought to honor those Agent Orange claims today. You know, let's give people the peace that they deserve. Let's give you finally some closure here. And, you know, they're telling us, "It costs too much." I don't know if it's a billion dollars or two billion dollars. I don't care what it is frankly. You don't think we owe it to you? We owe it to you. 

Among the Congress members calling out the backlog for years now are US House Rep Bob Filner, Senator Patty Murray (Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee), Senator Richard Burr (Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee), Daniel Akaka (former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee) and US House Rep Phil Roe.  They have consistently attempted to make sense of this problem and why it is just not dealt with year after year.  We're dropping back to a February 15th House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing when VA Secretary Eric Shinseki offered testimony.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: And I just want to ask a couple -- focus on a couple areas that I've been involved with over the years. One is the claims backlog.  In your budget presentation ou title it "Eliminate The Claims Backlog." But I don't see any real estimate or projection or anything of when you think you're going to do that but I still think that -- in the short run, at least -- to get this turned around your notion of -- I think you used the word "brute force" a few years ago, if I recall that.

Secretary Eric Shinseki: It was probably a poor choice of words.

Ranking Member Bob Filner: No, it's okay. It was good. Gives me something to shoot at, you know? I don't think it's going to work.  I just think all this stuff you have is good stuff but it's too big and, as you point out, there's all kind of factors making it bigger.  I still think you have to take some, I'll say, radical step in the short run -- whether it's to grant all the Agent Orange claims that have been submitted or have been there for X number of years or, as I've suggested at other times, all claims that have the medical information in it and have been submitted with the help of a Veterans Service Officer you accept subject to audit. That is, unless you take some real radical step to eliminate a million of them or 500,000 of them, you're never going to get there. It's going to always be there.  You don't want that as your legacy -- I don't think.  So -- Nor do we.  I think you're going to have to take some really strong steps in terms of accepting stuff that's been in the pipeline a long time, again, that has adequate -- by whatever definition -- documentation and help from professional support. Plus this incredible situation of Agent Orange where, as you know, not only have those claims increaded but we're talking about -- as you well know -- your comrades for thirty or more years that have been wrestling with this.  Let's give the Vietnam vets some peace. Let's give them a real welcome home. Let's grant those Agent Orange claims.  Let's get those -- whatever it is, 100,000 or 200,000  of our backlog -- just get them off the books.  I don't know if you want to comment on that but I still think you're never going to get there with -- All this is good stuff.  We've talked about it on many occasions.  But it's not going to fundamentally -- or at least in the short run change it around so you can get to a base  level of zero or whatever you want to be and move forward from there.

Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Mr. Filner, I'll call on Secretary Hickey for the final details but we've pretty much worked through the Agent Orange -- the increase in Agent Orange claims. I think we're well down on the numbers. I'll rely on her statistic here.

And, of course, despite that claim, the numbers weren't down and that's why, weeks later (as we noted in the first Congressional excerpt), US House Rep Filner would be bringing up the issue of claims processing regarding Agent Orange again.

Here's something to consider: What if service members were as slow to process orders from command as the VA is to process the claims of veterans?

On the issue of wait time and mental health care, the editorial board of  Florida's concludes, "The VA must do a better job than it has been doing in dealing with the very real mental health needs of those who have given so much to this country."  That's true of the wait time and it's also true of the claims processing.

Friday, May 11, 2012









Nouri al-Maliki's Iraq still can't provide more than six hours of electricity a day or potable water in most parts of the country but Al Mada reports the government has announced they will spend $50 million over the next three years to launch a satellite into space.   According to a press release issued by the Ministry of Communications' Amir al-Bayati the government seems to see itself in a satellite competition with Israel.  While Nouri frets over satellites, he still can't provide needed sanitation.  Alsumaria reports that a Karbala garbge dump borders residential areas resulting in people being exposed to waste and fumes and to disease and germs.  Dr. Ahmed Haidari states he is seeing respiratory issues -- including some breathing problems -- as well as skin and eye issues.  Residents complain that the smell is akin to that of rotting corpses.  As Michael Peel (Financial Times of London) observes, "Iraq's economic story after more than four decades of dictatorship and almost nine years of US occupation is a contradictory one of oil boom heavy debts and chronic problems with basic services."
Meanwhile Kitabat reports on an art exhibit in Amman, Jordan which focuses on Iraqi refugees and how the International Organization for Migration's Mike Bellinger hopes the exhibit will bring attention to the continued Iraqi refugee crisis. The Iraq War created the largest refugee crisis in the MidEast since 1948. Millions have been displaced internally, millions have left the country. Concerns over the crisis really began with the ethnic cleansing of 2006 and 2007; however, the term "brain drain" had already been in use for years by then and referred to the Iraqi professionals who fled the country due to direct threats as well as the violence. This resulted in what Dr. Souad al-Azzawi (Beyond Educide) has termed "educide" ("a composite of education and genocide to refer to the genocide of the educated segments of the Iraqi society") and Dr. al-Azzawi notes:
During the American occupation of Iraq, well-trained professors, often graduates of highly qualified American or European universities, were replaced by pro-occupation young freshly graduated faculty members. This policy is pursued with grimness by the current puppet government. Educide is still going on.
The minister of high education Ali Aladeeb turned the Iraqi universities into sectarian show-offs. No real attendance of classes, no real learning and teaching processes, and no real scientific advancements. All what he cares about is turning Iraqi universities and youth into sectarian institutes that look like Iranian regime revolutionaries.
And it continues. Dr. Souad al-Azzawi (Beyond Educide) explains last week Nouri ordered the arrest of Baghdad College of Economical Sciences' Professor Muhammad Taqa who has been in his post since 1996 and is widely published and the author of six books. Professor Taqa was born in Mosul in 1948, received his doctorate in economics in Germany and is a member of the Iraqi Economics Society and the Union of Arab Economists. All Iraqi News notes that the political movement Iraqiya has decried the arrest and quotes spokesperson Khadija al-Wa'ily stating, "The Movement warned from the arbitrary arrests according to malicious charges which means that the democracy is no longer available and replaced by the dictatorship. The Professor, Mohammed Taqa was arrested by a military force which is considered as evidence on the governmental terrorism where the terrorists must be arrested rather than the national figures such as Taqa." Azzaman reports that "both students and legislators" have protested the arrest and the news outlet notes, "No reasons are given for the arrest and the security forces who stormed his office are declining comments." MP Abdudhiyab al-Ujaili heads Parliament's Higher Education Commission and he notes, "The arrest of Professor Taqa is a slap in the face of our efforts to persuade academics who fled the country to return home. There was even no warrant or order by the judicial authorities to carry out the arrest."  Today at Beyond Educide, an Iraqi professor explains how the academic system is being destroyed by the government:
The most important indications of the higher education collapse could be generally summarized as follows:
1- The most significant indication is assigning the Ministry of Higher Education to a person who has no academic qualifications, whose feet never stepped in campus, only after he was appointed as a minister. This appointment was not based on any skill or efficiency, rather on being a member of the governing political party, and on his Iranian origin (his mother for example does not speak Arabic), and on being Shiite. Of course there is nothing wrong with being of this or that origin, or being from this or that sectarian group, but this identity has become an exclusive passport for anyone to assume any (high) position, especially for none Iraqis.
2- Academic, scientific and administrative positions in public universities are assigned and shared according to sectarian affiliations, not expertise or efficiency. All the universities' presidents and faculties' deans are from a specific sectarian group; and their academic and administrative assistants are from other group in order to achieve a supposedly balanced share in power positions. Thus the criterion for appointment is not academic, but exclusively sectarian.
3- Admissions in universities are again based on sectarian affiliation, especially in post graduate studies. Norms of admission that are based on academic record are totally neglected, and exceptions have become the rule. In addition to that, channels of admission are numerous now: seats for political prisoners of the previous regime, seats for families of the martyrs(1) , seats for graduates of religious schools in Iran, seats for deserters during the Iraqi-Iranian war who sought refuge in Iran (the latter were rewarded pieces of land and 10 million Iraqi dinars- more than $10.000). What remains of seats are assigned to what is called "special" admission, which means those who pay higher and who are admitted outside the rules that are based on academic record. What remains of seats, if at all, are assigned to "real" students who compete on honest rules of marks and academic reports. The result of all these discriminations is that opportunities are given to those who do not deserve them, and are normally not interested in academic research, while serious students are deprived.
4- There is also a familiar criterion now, which is (exception from rules) in other areas, apart from the exceptional admission. For example: transfer from one university to another, or transfer from one specialization to another(2) . To explain this point I tell you the following story that took place to me personally: A person came to me asking that his nephew be transferred from X University to another one. I apologized saying that: we all know that this is impossible, because transferring a student from (an academically) lesser to a higher university is not allowed according to the rules, and advised him to look for another college that admits his nephew's academic degree (marks). Few days later, the uncle came back to me saying (sarcastically): "so you are a well known professor but you could not do such a 'small' thing. I told the butcher in our neighborhood about this story, and he just made a call by his mobile, and my nephew is immediately transferred to the college of Administration and Economics". May be this story can tell about the collapse of the whole system.
5- The public universities are "distributed" between the political parties who control, make decisions and admit students in them. Baghdad University for example is allocated to the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq, while Al-Mustansiriah U. is allocated to the Sadr Group. The Nehrein U. (which was one of the most prestigious academic institutions) is allocated to Al-Da'wa party that totally destroyed it.
Those are five of 14 examples.  And so it goes in Nouri's Iraq, where everything crumbles and collapses including justice -- even if so many Western outlets 'forget' to inform the world of what's taking place.  Kitabat reports that the trial against Tareq al-Hashemi that was supposed to start last Thursday but was then postponed to this Thursday has been postponed to next Tuesday.  This delay is said to be due to an appeal Hashemi's attorneys have filed to move the case from the Criminal Court to the Federal Court.  Currently al-Hashemi is in Turkey.  Al Rafidayn notes that he has the support of the Turkish government.  Alsumaria reports that a number of Iraqi politicians and triabal leaders protested outside the Turksih consulate to lodge their demand that Turkey hand Tareq al-Hashemi over to Baghdad.  That's not at all surprising or reflective of anything.  In the 2010 elections, with over 800,000 voters, Basra awarded almost two-thirds of their seats (14) to Nouri's State of Law (al-Hashemi's Iraqiya won only 3 seats in the province).  The Journal of Turkish Weekly quotes Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stating, "We gave him all kinds of support on this issue and we will continue to do so."  Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag is quoted stating, "We would not hand in someone who we support."  Press TV reports Nouri "lashed out at his Turkish counterpart, saying Erdogan's remarks did not show 'mutual respect'."  Nouri's not thrilled with Turkey's response to the red alert so he took time out from terrorizing academics to make a little statement.    
The Journal of Turkish Weekly actually explains the INTERPOL Red Notice posted about Tareq al-Hashemi, "Sources said that red notices were based on national warrants, and published at the request of a member state as long as the request did not violate Interpol regulations.  Sources noted that red bulletin was not an international warrant of arrest, adding that there was not a certain verdict about al-Hashemi.  Sources stressed that al-Hashemi was still the vice president of Iraq and he had diplomatic immunity." 
Al Mada reports that the National Alliance held a meeting yesterday that they self-described as important and that they state was part of their efforts to resolve the country's political crisis; however, State of Law was not invited to the meet-up.  The National Alliance is a Shi'ite grouping.  Among the members are the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (Ammar al-Hakim is the leader), Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, the National Reform Trend (Ibrahim al-Jaafari is the leader), the Bard Organization (Hadi al-Amir is the leader) and the Iraqi National Congress (led by Ahmed Chalabi).  The National Alliance backed Nouri al-Maliki for prime minister in 2010.  Nouri's political slate was State of Law.  It came in second in the March 2010 elections.  Iraqiya, led by Ayad Allawi, came in first.  Eight months of gridlock followed those elections (Political Stalemate I) as a result of Nouri refusing to honor the Constitution and his belief that -- with the backing of Iran and the White House -- he could bulldoze his way into a second term. The Erbil Agreement allowed Political Stalemate I to end.  Nouri's refusal to honor the agreement created the ongoing Political Stalemate II.  Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi's [PDF format warning] "The State Of Iraq"  (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) notes the events since mid-December as well as what kicked off Political Stalemate II:

Within days of the official ceremonies marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved to indict Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sought to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq from his position, triggering a major political crisis that fully revealed Iraq as an unstable, undemocractic country governed by raw competition for power and barely affected by institutional arrangements.  Large-scale violence immediately flared up again, with a series of terrorist attacks against mostly Shi'i targets reminiscent of the worst days of 2006.
But there is more to the crisis than an escalation of violence.  The tenuous political agreement among parties and factions reached at the end of 2010 has collapsed.  The government of national unity has stopped functioning, and provinces that want to become regions with autonomous power comparable to Kurdistan's are putting increasing pressure on the central government.  Unless a new political agreement is reached soon, Iraq may plunge into civil war or split apart.

The Erbil Agreement allowed Nouri to have a second term as prime minister.  That was a concession other political blocs made.  In exchange, Nouri made concessions as well.  These were written up and signed off on.  But once Nouri got his second term, he refused to honor the Erbil Agreement.  Since the summer of 2011, the Kurds have been calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement.  Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr joined that call.  As last month drew to a close, there was a big meet-up in Erbil with various political blocs participating.  Nouri al-Maliki was not invited.  Among those attending were KRG President Massoud Barzani, Ayad Allawi, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  Since December 21st, Talabani and al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national convention to resolve the political crisis.

Nouri spent the first two months dismissing the need for one, arguing that it shouldn't include everyone, arguing about what it was called, saying it should just be the three presidencies -- that would Jalal Talabani, Nouri al-Maliki and Osama al-Nujaifi -- and offering many more road blocs.  As March began, Nouri's new excuse was that it had to wait until after the Arab League Summit (March 29th).  The weekend before the summit, Talabani forced the issue by announcing that the convention would be held April 5th.  Nouri quickly began echoing that publicly.  However, April 4th it was announced the conference was off.  Nouri's State of Law took to the press to note how glad they were about that.

Thursday, May 10, 2012







Starting with the US Congress.
US House Rep Johnson: I'm going to start off with a bit of a difficult questions. You know, year after year, in annual budget submissions, in annual performance reports, quarterly reports, Congressional testimony and in countless press releases and statements, the VA has consistently touted the 14 day standard as the number one measure of mental health care access. In a five month investigation; however, the IG found that measure to have no real value and to be essentially meaningless. Mr. Secretary, how is it possible that that's not bubbling up to your level? How is it possible that you don't know that? And who is responsible for misleading Congress and the public on this metric? And how will they be held accountable?
Secretary Eric Shinseki: Uh, Congressman, I, uh, I-I don't think,uh, anyone has, uh, misled Congress here. Doctor Petzel described three methods of, uh, identifying in the scheduling arena. Capacity, desire date, create date. We have -- They have in the mental health areana been using desire date now since 2007 and my understanding this uh goes back to when we had a previous discussion like this. Uhm, I'm not sure how the, uh, results were achieved but it just seems to me that desire date and create date in the report, uh, are brought together in a way, it's hard for me to determine, whether there was a pure assessment of whether desire date was being executed properly, whether staff were properly trained and following the instructions, that would allow us to focus on corrective actions. Right now, part of my discussion with Dr. Petzel is that we're going to sit down with the IG and make sure we come up with a clear standard here so that when we audit in the future, there isn't this confusion about which date we're uh using and we get a cleaner outcome, understanding. I'm not able to address the specifics here but I would assure the Congressman there's no misleading of Congress.
US House Rep Bill Johnson: I can certainly agree that there is no intention to do so but I think we all agree here that the objective is to make sure those veterans that request mental health counseling get it as soon as absolutely possible.
That's from yesterday's US House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  US House Rep Bill Johnson was questioning VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.  And it may have wrongly seemed like Shinseki answered Johnson's question.  He did not.
Johnson asked about the figures that were given.  Shinseki attempted to dispute the report from the Office of the Inspector General. He also attempts to push off his Department's problems onto the IG.  There are these different ways of measuring, Shinseki insists.
And we're supposed to say, "Goodness, that is confusing.  That mean old IG!"  But that nonsense is not from the IG.  That is the VA's nonsense.  The VA is the one that wants to bring in "desired date" and other obscuring nonsense.  The IG noted that in the cover letter -- for get the report itself -- back in April: "VHA does not have reliable and accurate method of deteriming whether they are providing patients timely access to mental health care servies.  VHA did not provide first-time patients with timely mental health evaluations and existing patients often waited more than 14 days past their desired date of care for their treatment.  As a result, performance measures used to report patient's access to mental health care do not depict the true picture of a patient's waiting time to see mental health provider."  And if Shinseki wants to object to that finding, it's a little too damn late.  As the next sentence notes, "The Under Secretary for Health conccured with the OIG's findings [. . .]"
Congress did not invent the 14% number.  The VA did.  And while Shinseki attempts to distract and pin the blame on the IG, someone whould have asked him what Johnson was originally getting at: How did the VA get this figure they promoted?
It was a false figure.  They promoted it over and over.  Please note, Shinseki rushed to assure that no one with the VA had intentionally tried to mislead Congress.  He didn't say a damn thing about their attempts to mislead the public.  But then, misleading Congress can result in sanctions.  Lying to the public is a just standard politics.
Playing with the numbers and trying to hide behind terms is not leadership.  US House Rep Cliff Stearns, while questioning the reps for the Office of the Inspector General, probably put it best, "Well, I think the bottom line is, you've said it takes 50 days to provide this roughly 200,000 veterans with their full evaluation.  That's what you're saying and that's not good and that should be changed. And I think that's -- no matter what we're talking about, a capacity desire or a create date -- the bottom line is that veterans, almost 200,000, are not getting serviced.  And the Veterans Administration can use whatever terminology and definitions they want, but by golly, these guys -- these guys and gals aren't getting taken care of.  And that's why we're here today."
Minutes before US House Rep Johnson went to his line of questioning, Shinseki was declaring, "My guess here is we're doing good work, we're just not able to document it."
Is that your guess?  Are you paid to guess or are you paid to suprevise?
The metrics have never been in place and that's not just my opinion, that's the opinon of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee based on their own public statements in one hearing after another.  Shinseki was appointed by Barack Obama to supervise the VA.  Supervision is not a guess.  Shinseki's gotten a pass from the press from early on.  When the fall of 2009 rolled around and veterans were without GI Bill checks, when they couldn't afford housing, when this situation continued through Christmas -- as many veterans stated to the press and to Congress, their kids had to do without Christmas because they still hadn't gotten their checks for the semester they'd just completed, they'd had to borrow money to pay for that. When all of that came out, something came out with it.
Eric Shinseki admitted that, shortly after being confirmed to his post by the Senate, he was informed that there would be problems with the checks that fall.  That the system wasn't ready for it.  He knew that and Congress repeatedly asked him if there were any problems, repeatedly asked if help was needed and he said no and no and no over and over.  Then when the problem emerged, VA tried to play dumb for months.
Secretary Eric Shinseki: I'm looking at the certificates of eligibility uh being processed on 1 May and enrollments 6 July, checks having to flow through August. A very compressed timeframe. And in order to do that, we essentially began as I arrived in January, uh, putting together the plan -- reviewing the plan that was there and trying to validate it. I'll be frank, when I arrived, uh, there were a number of people telling me this was simply not executable. It wasn't going to happen. Three August was going to be here before we could have everything in place. Uh, to the credit of the folks in uh VA, I, uh, I consulted an outside consultant, brought in an independent view, same kind of assessment. 'Unless you do some big things here, this is not possible.' To the credit of the folks, the good folks in VBA, they took it on and they went at it hard. We hired 530 people to do this and had to train them. We had a manual system that was computer assisted. Not very helpful but that's what they inherited. And we realized in about May that the 530 were probably a little short so we went and hired 230 more people. So in excess of 700 people were trained to use the tools that were coming together even as certificates were being executed. Uhm, we were short on the assumption of how many people it would take.
Let's remember too what the VA did in real time: Blamed veterans.  They did the form wrong or it was the schools!  It was everybody but the VA.  No.  As Shinseki finally admitted in an open hearing -- with the press taking a pass on it -- he knew when he started the job.  He heard it from VA employees, he went to an outside consultant who told him the same thing.  Never did he inform Congress of that before the press started reporting what was happening. 
That's not leadership. 
And over and over, this is the pattern with Shinseki who is supposed to be supervising the VA.  The Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal pre-dates Shinseki.  But there will be many scandals after Shinseki's out of office that result from the lack of supervision right now.
Yesterday morning, as he called the hearing to order, Chair Jeff Miller noted why they were meeting.
Chair Jeff Miller: I think most of the Committee knows that two weeks ago the VA Inspector General released a report reviewing veterans access to mental health care -- something that we're all very interested in, as are all veterans and Americans across this country.  And I've got to say that the findings in the report are really more than troubling.  That's probably an understatement to just call them troubling.  And one of the most disturbing things that the IG discovered is that more than half of the veterans who seek mental health care through the VA wait an average of 50 days --  50 days --  to receive a full mental health evaluation.  So let me be real clear from the outset, a veteran who comes to the VA for help should never, never under any circumstance have to wait almost two months to receive the evaluation they have asked for and begin the treatment they need.  I don't believe anybody in this room thinks there is any excuse for that type of delay.
If the topic seems familiar, it was the same for the April 25th Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  If you missed those hearings, you can refer to  "Fire everyone at the VA,"    "Scott Brown: It's clearly not working (Ava),"   "VA paid out nearly $200 million in bonuses last year (Wally)" and that week's Wednesday's snapshot. and Friday snapshot.   The hearing was made up of three panels.  The first panel was Shinseki and the VA's Robert Petzel, Mary Schohn, Antonette Zeiss, Annie Spiczak and, from the Office of Inspector General, John Daigh and Linda Halliday.  The second panel was noted in yesterday's snapshot, in Kat's "Congress Member Gone Wild" and in "Congress is supposed to provide oversight."  The witnesses were Dr. Nicole Sawyer,Group Health Cooperative's Diana Birkett Rakow, Dr. James Schuster and Health Net Federal Services' Thomas Carrato.  The third panel was the Disabled American Veterans' Joy Ilem,  Paralyzed Veterans of America's Alethea Predeoux and Wounded Warrior Project's Ralph Ibson.
From the first panel, we'll note this exchange.
Chair Jeff Miller: You talked about the press release April 19th.  You've acknowledged also that there's about a 15 -- I think it's 1500 mental health staff vacancies.  It could be more or less.  And you're staffing, your testimony today talks about maybe hiring more than 1900.  So what I'd like -- an answer is, I know you're going to try to fill the 1500 vacancy that exists.  You're going to add additional 1900-plus staff.  And the question is: Is that correct?  Then a couple of other things.  How quickly do you think VA can hire the additional staff?  Where are you going to put the additional staff?  And how will you be able to measure the impact they will have on improving care? 
Mr. Chairman, let me just make an opening statement here and then I'm going to call on Ms. Annie Spiczak who does the recruiting and retention personnel work for us because you're asking to see what tools we have and what our expectation here is?  We think that we'll get most of that done in the next six months but some of these specialities are difficult to recruit and  I would, be honest with you, I'm not sure I can pin a date when all of them will be in.  But the vast majority of the work will be done in the next six months.  Some of this may carry over into the second quarter of FY13.  Let me call on Ms. Spiczak to talk about the process here.
Annie Spiczak: Thank you, Secretary.  Uh, sir, I would say that we have a four-fold strategy to recruit and hire the mental health professionalsthat we need in VHA. Uh, the first part of that strategy is to have a very robust marketing and advertising campaign to do that outreach to mental health providers and providers by the use of USA Jobs, using social media, getting all of those vacancy announcements posted to specialty sites and job boards. The second part of that is using our national recruiters. We have 21 dedicated health care recruiters and they are very involved with the VISNs and the medical center directors to recruit those hard to fill positions -- especially our psychiatrists and our psychologists.  Thirdly, we're going to recruit from our active pipeline of trainees and residents.  VHA has a very robust training program and they are an integral part to filling that pipeline of our workforce.  And, fourthly, we're going to ensure that we have complete involvement and support of VA leadership.
Chair Jeff Miller: I guess --
Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Mr. Chairman, I'm going to call on Dr. Petzel to just add some concluding thoughts here.  But I would also point out the, uh, national recruitment program, the 21 high quality recruiters that Ms. Spiczak referred to, all are veterans.  18 of them have extensive experience in recruiting.  And for any new individual who joins the team,  they go through a training program and oversight, mentoring by some of the old timers, so this is a pretty robust crew that we're talking about.  Dr. Petzel?
Dr. Robert Petzel:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Mr. Chairman, I just wanted to add briefly, the VA trains -- has 1,000 psychiatric residency positions.  We have over 730 internship positions for clinical psychologists, just to mention a couple of the positions.  We're the largest trainer of mental health professionals in the country.  And this group of trainees is the primary place that we're going to be recruiting those individuals to fill those 1900 jobs. And the last thing I'd like to add is that  the most difficult to recruit group is the psychiatrists. Particularly in more remote and rural areas.  And we have recently sent a memo to the Secretary which I believe he has signed or is about to sign to change the pay table for psychiatrists and to make available other incentives so that we can compete more equitably with the private sector and DoD in terms of recruiting  psychiatrists.
Chair Jeff Miller:  Ms. Spiczak, how long does it take for VA to fill a vacancy like the 1500 that are open now for mental health professionals.  What's the average time that those positions have remained vacant?
Annie Spiczak:  Sir, it takes anywhere from four to six but for some of our hard to fill positions, it can take up to a year to fill those positions.
Chair Jeff Miller: Have you ever been even close to 100% staffed at the full level with the 1500 that you currently have?
Annie Spiczak:  Sir, we'll always have a turnover rate, a vacancy rate that we're always trying to close that gap but you have my commitment that we're going to work very hard to close that.
Chair Jeff Miller:  At what level is the vacancy rate?  Is it more at the upper level, the lower tier, I hate to say 'lower tier,' but, obviously, the psychiatrist level downward?  Which is the higher rate?  Is it the psychiatrist or is it the person in the --
Annie Spiczak: No, sir. Our turnover rate in FY 2011 for mental health professionals was 7.23%.  And the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the health care industry shows a 28% turnover rate.
Chair Jeff Miller: Then I guess the last question that I'd like to ask in this round is how are we going to pay for the extra 1900 mental health care professionals?
Secretary Eric Shinseki:  For that question, I'm going to call on Dr. Petzel.
Dr. Robert Petzel:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Mr. Chairman, we, uh, have estimated that, uh, cost in Fiscal Year 12 will be relatively small because it's going to take some time to get these people on board and we will use money that we have available in 12.  We expect that this will not exceed 29 million and may be a bit less than 29 million dollars. In fiscal year 13, we're going to separately identify the funding for this initiative as part of each one of the VISNs allocations and then the VISNs will receive a hiring target based on their allocation and we're going to keep very close track of that hiring target.  Ms. Spiczak can give more detail about how we're going to do that, but we're basically going to be daily looking at how they're meeting that hiring target.   We've identified -- We will identify each one of these positions  electronically on USA Jobs by special number so that we can track all of the 1900 new people as well as all of the vacancies that exist right now.
Secretary Eric Shinseki:  Mr. Chairman, just a data point. Psychiatrists are the toughest to recruit and I think under this new model we say it's about 57 that we're going to go after in this group of 1900. Of 57, 37 have already been recruited.  7 are already serving. 30 are being on-boarded and so we're beginning to hone in on this most difficult recruiting challenge and working it down.  So there's some evidence that we can recruit to what we need here.
That's about as much garbage I can take in one excerpt.  Where to begin?  Annie Spiczak asserts, "Our turnover rate in FY 2011 for mental health professionals was 7.23%. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the health care industry shows a 28% turnover rate."  No, they don't.  During the long, long break in the hearing for votes, I called the Bureau of Labor Statistics to check that.  28%?  It was 21.9% in 2006, the highest its been in the last ten years.  In 2010, the turnover rate was 15.8% and in 2011, the turnover rate was 15.5%.  In addition, I was told Spiczak's number for the VA was "questionable" and was asked if I thought they were counting "positions" because if they were doing it that way, all those empty positions would artificially reduce the turnover rate.  I asked for an example on that.  If there are 800 positions and only 100 are filled, are you dealing with the turnover rate of that 100 staff or are you using positions and acting as though you have 800 positions?  If you're going by positions -- and including empty positions -- you can artificially reduce the turnover rate.  If that doesn't make sense, blame me and not the Buereau of Labor Statistics which was very helpful.  (Until yesterday's hearing, I hadn't even registered on the term "turnover rate."  The BLS was very helpful in explaining that but if there's a mistake in this paragraph, it's on me and on my misunderstanding the BLS.  And though I did get a name from a mutual friend and call and speak to that person, I was also told that the BLS works very hard to assist everyone with answers and that they do so via the phone and via e-mail.)

Wednesday, May 09, 2012








This morning, the US House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing.  We may cover it tomorrow in terms of issues discussed.  Today, we'll note that there is no excuse for the behavior of one member.

Corrine Brown made an ass out of herself.  She was so out of control that censure should actually be considered for her actions.  In fact, "actions" is too mature for the behavior she exhibited.  The term is "tantrums."  She threw tantrums.

Democrats better realize most of America doesn't give a damn that you don't control the House.  They do care that you're being increasingly hostile.

Now if that's to other lawmakers, it's not appropriate but people will write it off and roll with it.  When that behavior is directed at witnesses, you need to self-check.

Corrine Brown was out of control.  There was no excuse for it.  A witness, Dr. Nicole L. Sawyer, was answering Chair Jeff Miller's questions when Brown attacked her.  Brown did not have the floor and knew she didn't.  But she jumped in to attack the witness -- the obviously startled witness.  We're being kind and not quoting.  How is that being kind?  I never quote Corrine Brown in full because she can't speak proper English. A member of the US Congress delcaring, this is just one of them today, "You only know what go on in your area!" is a public embarrassment.  Brown got degrees, for something other than learning, and she made it into the US Congress.  You'd think she'd have enough self-pride to have learned how to speak properly.  She can't so, check the archives, we quote her selectively to avoid embarrassing her.  If most of America saw examples of Brown's speaking, they would be appalled.  She sounds like she never made it out of middle school.  As a member of Congress, its upon her to educate herself so that she can speak proper English.

When a witness is responding to the Chair, Brown needs to learn not to interrupt.  The witness wasn't saying anything outlandish or hostile and was clearly confused by Brown's tantrum.   By Brown suddenly yelling out in the middle of the witness' answer.  After Brown's tantrum, Miller again asked the witness to speak.  The doctor did so and attempted to bring Brown into her response which sounded a lot like conciliatory remarks before Brown cut her off and started screaming that the chair better tell the witness not to talk to her, better tell the witness to address her remarks to the chair.

There was no excuse for Corrine Brown's behavior.  She's long been the joke of Congress because of how she speaks and how she never knows what she's talking about.  We'll touch on that last thing.  Corrine at another point in the hearing was throwing a tantrum in defense of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and insisting that this wait time results were skewed -- the results are from the VA's Office of the Inspector General.  They are not skewed, they are not partisan.  They are independent. 

But Brown's loves to show just how stupid she can be.  "They trying to," the uneducated idiot declared at one point.  That would be: "They are trying . . ."  It's called English.  You're a member of the US Congress, you should know proper English.  But, anyway, Brown was going on about how there are so many referrals outside of VA and these referrals aren't factored in.

She is highly uninformed.  2% is the percentage of referrals for last year.  That was established in the April 25th Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  If you missed those hearings, you can refer to  "Fire everyone at the VA,"    "Scott Brown: It's clearly not working (Ava),"   "VA paid out nearly $200 million in bonuses last year (Wally)" and that week's Wednesday's snapshot. and Friday snapshot

There's no excuse for Corrine Brown's repeated stupidity and there was no excuse for her attacking a witness, for her belitting the witness, for her attacking the degree the witness has ("She's an educational doctor! She's not a medical doctor!"), for her attacking educators (as Chair Jeff Miller noted) and for her sour attitude.

The witness is not a VA employee.  The witness has her own psychology practice in Exeter, New Hampshire.  She has worked on many veterans issues (I don't know her but I do know of her, I believe Elaine knows her) including setting up wellness programs and addressing TBI and PTSD.  She did not deserve to be snarled at and hissed at and attacked.  Unlike Corrine Brown, Nicole Sawyer has gone out of her way to help veterans.  And that includes many efforts that had no payment at all. 

And there was Corinne Brown telling the witness that all the members of the Committee care about is money.  (The Chair rightly took offense to that.)  If I were running against her (she has an opponent in the Democratic Party primary and she'll be facing a Republican in the general election), I'd simply run the video of her declaring all that Congress cares about is money.  Over and over.  With a slogan like, "Corrinne Brown knows her priorities."  "We just care about the money.  We just care about the money.  We just care about the money.  We just care about the money."   I'd run that ad over and over and over.  And she wouldn't be re-elected.

She'll try to claim that she was attempting to say that Congress should care about more than money but that's not what she said, that's not what she indicated.

The witness was explaining that you cannot do mental health in "cookie cutter" fashion.  And she was explaining how, for example, eight visits to a psychologist or social worker or psychiatrist wouldn't be enough for most veterans with mental health needs.

Corrine Brown told her that would have to be enough because that's what they [Congress] had decided and that's what they were willing to pay for.

So Corrine Brown not only attacked a witness, she proclaimed that a veteran who can't manage mental health in 8 appointments is then on his or her own.

I've seen crazy behavior in hearings before.  And since we've been attending for the last six or seven years, I've seen, for example, Steve Buyer attack a witness and then storm out.  Slamming the door as he left the hearing. But nothing before was like today.  In fact, all the worst moments of the last seven years combined couldn't equal Corrine Brown's outrageous behavior and outrageous statements. 

Repeating, you're not there to attack the witnesses.  And if you're on the Veterans Affairs Committee, you never should make the statement that 8 appointments is enough to heal someone.  You should never be that stupid.  I was asked by a veteran attending the hearing, after the hearing, "Did she say that we should be well in 8 appointments?"  Yes, that is what she argued.

At one point she wanted to (loudly) insist, "I've been on this Committee for 20 years."  Well in that time you should have learned how to conduct yourself.  The fact that you haven't learned that doesn't give you permission to attack a witness whose only crime is attempting to answer the questions she was asked.
Brown and others need to realize that the VA's done a lousy job.  Serving the needs of veterans is not playing partisan politics.  Some of Brown's most outlandish behavior today can be pinned on the fact that Shinseki and the VA he heads were being called out and she saw her role as Democratic Party heavy weight.  Next time, she should remember that on the Veterans Affairs Committee, she's supposed to represent veterans and she's on a committee that's supposed to provide oversight of the VA. 

We could point out that with the exception of this latest audit -- the one Corrine Brown attacked repeatedly -- which resulted from the work of Senator Patty Murray (Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee), everything else has been the press.  It was the Washington Post that made the Walter Reed scandal news, not the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  Time and again, the body that's supposed to provide oversight of the VA has done a sorry job of that and when Corrine Brown thinks that, on top of that, she can attack health care providers in a meeting, insist that it's all about money and that mental health issues can be solved in 8 sessions, that woman has serious problems and her peers need to pull her aside and convey that message to her.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012







Starting with Bradley Manning who has a court-martial scheduled to start September 21st.  Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks 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 and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it.
Today on WBAI, Law and Disorder Rado was live (this is an additional broadcast -- the regular, recorded hour long show -- with Nick Surgery discussing Common Cause's complaint against the American Legislative Exchange Council and updates on Lynne Stewart, May Day and more) due to WBAI being in plege drive mode and the live broadcast spoke with journalist Kevin Gosztola about Bradley Manning.
Michael Ratner: I want to step back and ask you, because we've been getting a number of calls, I want to stop and ask you: Who was Bradley Manning? You touched on it but even start with he joined the military, etc., etc. and some of his background and then we'll bring us up to the current proceedings.
Kevin Gosztola: Right. So he was born in Oklahoma.  And he had a, you know, pretty small town growing up.  You know you wouldn't have thought him to be -- He wasn't from a big city.  But his family was -- he didn't have the best family situation growing up.  His father and mother did divorce and ended up separating.  He spends some time Oklahoma and then ends up going over to the UK to live with his mother for a couple of years and go to school in high school.  Then he comes back to the United States and he's sort of wondering aimlessly around the United States looking for a job, something to do with his life.  His father is angry at him.  I think by that time, his father knows that he is gay and that becomes a source of tension.  I also gather from different sources that he didn't get along with his step-mother.  And so his father eventually suggests, 'You should join the military, you need some stability.'
Michael Smith:  Make him a man.
Kevin Gosztola: What?
Michael Ratner:  Yeah and he joins the military.
Heidi Boghosian:  And joking --
Kevin Gosztola: And in the military he becomes this person who becomes an intelligence analyst and as we've learned in the hearings that I've been at, he didn't have a good ride in the military.  It was something that was very hard for him to handle because essentially the whole time he was in the military he had to hide his sexual orientation.
Michael Ratner: Now, now, Kevin, you will bring us up to eventually he's alleged to have uploaded a bunch of documents to WikiLeaks.  Can you talk about that a little bit and then bring us up to the charges?
Kevin Gosztola: Right. So through November 2009 to May 2010, we have all of these alleged releases so basically anything that you know of that had WikiLeaks in the headlines, this is the source, the alleged source right now.  So through December to January, we have the Collateral Murder Video being released, you have War Logs files being moved over, you have cables going, you even have a special document a WikiLeaks Threat Report that I believe the CIA put together that was suggesting what kind of threat the WikiLeaks organization would pose.  And you've got the Gitmo files being moved.  Remember the Gitmo files were released in April of last year.  And so all of these releases that were headlines.  And in May, he starts to chat with a hacker Adrian Llamo allegedly -- I mean, it's believed that he was chatting with him. And then Adrian turns Bradley in the second day of the chats, into the feds.  Adrian continues to chat, basically looks like something that amounts to entrapment as he continues to get Bradley to incriminate himself on paper. Then Bradley's picked up and arrested.  He's in Baghdad.  He's moved to Kuwait.  And then he's moved to [Marine Corps Base] Quantico Brig [in Virginia] after a month.  And there in Quantico was where people really started to get to know Bradley Manning because of the outrage of how he was being treated by the military.
You can read Kevin Gosztola's writing at Firedoglake's The Dissenter.   Law and Disorder Radio  is  a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights),
Michael Ratner:  And now Kevin, go to some of the charges against Bradley Manning and tell us what he's accused of.
Kevin Gosztola: The charges basically break up to about three sets here.   The most severe charge against him is that he aided the enemy.  And that is basically an espionage charge and suggests that he had some -- that he was actually helping al Qaeda.  They've named the enemy.  So for listeners, the government has come out and said that the enemy is al Qaeda. And he's accused of aiding indirectly.  So using the WikiLeaks website to aid al Qaeda.  And there's much more to say about that charge but to other charges, the soldier's accused of unauthorized downloading to his computer.  So downloading software that he didn't have the right to have on his computer as an intelligence analyst.  And then he's also alleged to have brought discredit to the army and he's got several charges, I think about 15 or 16 of the charges are actually bringing dishonor to the military and making the military look bad by taking certain actions that were part of the leaks, the alleged leaks.
Heidi Boghosian:  Could you talk a little bit more about that charge of aiding al Qaeda even indirectly? I don't understand how they came up with that.
Kevin Gosztola: Yeah.  So, I mean what's really -- what's really startling to me as somebody who comes in and hopes to see that if you're going ot charge a soldier with aiding the enemy, you'd be able to show that this person had evil intent.  I mean, I think it should be clear that if you're going to make someone pay and go to jail for life without parole essentially, that's what we're talking about, people listening should know that this is a federal offense that comes with even the possibility of a death penalty but the government claims they won't give that.  So let's just assume he would get life without parole.  What's really startling is that the government wrote this charge so that they didn't have to prove that he had intent.  So that's what they're trying to do throughout the hearing, that's what they've been trying to do throughout all the legal proceedings so far, to get away without having to show Bradley had any intent to aid al Qaeda.  So while there's nothing that I've seen presented in court, it basically amounts to making a huge example out of Bradley Manning so that other military soldiers would never consider doing what Bradley is alleged to have done.  You know, taking material at his fingertips and not releasing every single piece of information that he had but releasing key sets of documents that gave us insight into some of the worst aspects of the Bush administration, some of the crimes and some of the misconduct of the Bush administration and to a little extent to the Obama administration, what had been going on by the government.
Not having taken money from The Nation magazine, I have no need to ever whore for the Democratic Party,  (I also understand "alleged."  For example, the documents that were leaked -- they're not alleged.  The government has admitted they're real.  Without that admission, the government couldn't sue because any judge -- even a military judge -- would toss it out if the government wasn't admitting their documents had been released.  If the documents were fake, there might be fraud charges but the current charges wouldn't apply.)  The Obama administration's crimes are greater than the Bush administration.  Bully Boy Bush didn't oversee Iraq.  Robert Gates did.  Then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.  The Collateral Murder Video comes under Gates' watch.  The incoming administration should have known as much as what an analyst allegedly had access to on a remote computer.  And yet Barack Obama made the decision to keep Gates as his own Secretary of Defense.  (Gates just left last summer, replaced by Leon Panetta.)  When the Collateral Murder Vido took place, General David Petraeus was the top US commander in Iraq.  When Barack was sworn in, Petraeus was then the commander of CENTCOM. Barack then went on to put Petraeus (June 2010) in charge of Afghanistan.  He retired from the military in August and was given the Army Distinguished Service Medal -- apparently for overseeing the deaths of journalists in Baghdad? And Barack went on to make Petraeus the director of the CIA.
If you're on The Nation payroll, you can say, "Tsk, tsk, George Bush." If you're a functioning adult living in reality, you grasp that promoting and embracing these two and others makes Barack wore and more culpable than Bush who could claim that it was all a surprise in 2007 that the events portrayed in the Collateral Murder Video took place.
It's equally true that Bully Boy Bush hasn't commented on Bradley Manning publicly.  He could.  He's no longer commander in chief.  But Barack is commander in chief.  That's a Constitutional power -- Article 2, Section 2.  It's a serious role. One that Barack shirks when he pronounces Bradley guilty before Bradley's even been tried or entered a plea.  As Kat's BFF Kevin Zeese observed in April 2011 at War Is A Crime:
On Thursday April 21, 2011 in San Francisco a group of Bradley Manning supporters protested the prosecution of Manning at a Barack Obama fundraising event. One of Manning's supporters was able to question the president directly afterwards and during the conversation, Obama said on videotape that Manning was guilty.
Can you imagine if the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamene'i, pronounced an Iranian military whistle blower "guilty" before any trial was held? Khamene'i is the commander-in-chief of all armed forces in Iran, just as President Obama is the commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed services. Would anyone in the United States think that a trial before Iranian military officers that followed such a pronouncement could be fair? The U.S. government would use the situation to make propaganda points about the phony justice system in Iran.
President Obama's pronouncement about Manning, "He broke the law," amounts to unlawful command influence – something prohibited in military trials because it is devastating to the military justice system. Manning will be judged by a jury of military officers in a military court where everyone involved follows the orders of the commander-in-chief. How are these officers going to rule against their commander-in-chief, especially after Manning has been tortured in solitary confinement for almost a year? Any officer who finds Manning "not guilty" will have no chance of advancing his career after doing so.
Article 37 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice makes undo command influence unlawful. Unlawful Command Influence has been called "the carcinoma of the military justice system" and is often described as "the mortal enemy of military justice." The importance of the command structure in the military makes command influence a threat to fair trails, i.e. "because the inherent power and influence of command are necessary and omnipresent facets of military life, everyone involved in both unit command and in military justice must exercise constant vigilance to protect against command influence becoming unlawful."
After the interview was over, the Law and Disorder gang returned to the topic of one charge that's been brought against Bradley.
Michael Ratner:  The question is how he aided in the enemy and I was in court when this happened and they asked the prosecutor how was he aiding the enemy and they said, 'He's aiding the enemy and he did it indirectly by giving documents to WikiLeaks which then published the documents on WikiLeaks which are then read by al Qaeda and then they get information about --
Michael Smith:  Themselves.
Michael Ratner:  Well bascially. 'And it drums up their supporters to say how bad the US is and all this.'  And that's somehow aiding the enemy.  Now what's interesting about that charge -- and Kevin alluded to this question of intent -- the New York Times, let's say for example, let me give our listeners an example, they publish the documents or information about President Bush engaging in warrantless wiretapping of people in the United States and abroad.  And, of course, that's published in the New York Times and, of course, al Qaeda reads the New York Times, so why couldn't you charge the New York Times with indirectly aiding the enemy al Qaeda?  It's obvious why you don't, because their intention, the New York Times, was not to aid al Qaeda.  Their intention was to bring out the illegalities of the US system of wiretapping.  Like a Bradley Manning allegedly putting these documents to bring out the crimes of the United States. His intention was not to aid al Qaeda. 
Michael Ratner's a legal expert and his opinions are always wroth seriously considering.  However, there's another issue with regards to his example.  The New York Times is a press outlet.  Whatever your opinion of it, it is recognized as such.  The First Amendment comes into play and, in Michael's example, the paper is reporting.  Would Bradley Manning, if he did leak the documents, be seen in the same role?  Would he be seen as leaking to the press or, WikiLeaks being a whistle blower organization (that's how it was seen before Bradley was charged and that's how it promoted itself), would it be something different.  That's "A."  "B," I've never read the chat logs and have no plans to.  They are edited and they may or may not be genuine.  But the prosecution has read them and they know what Adrian Llamo will say at the court martial -- trained canaries always sing the tunes they're taught.  Point being, aiding the enemy is a serious charge and it might exist currently in an attempt to frighten Bradley and to force his hand.  Or it might be charge they plan on keeping in the court-martial.  If they plan on keeping it, I would assume they had Llamo ready to spin or they wouldn't have lodged it to begin with.  This whole area that Michael Ratner's outlining so very well is confusing for one reason: The defense hasn't entered a plea.
We're including Michael Ratner's take because it's legally sound and may be correct.  But there's a great deal unknown at this point still and I'm trying to make it clear that it's his argument, not mine.  There have been a number of e-mails expressing disappointment that I didn't use this space to defend a service member who just got drummed out of the military.  We covered that by noting Justin Raimondo's writing on the topic.  I couldn't write on it because I'd long ago made an argument here* -- repeatedly -- that didn't allow me to take a stand defending that service member without being a hypocrite.  So should it turn out that Llamo testifies that in hours of chat, once Bradely expressed that he didn't care whether this helped al Qaeda or not or that he wanted it to, we're not painted into a corner or blindsided because I haven't made that an issue in the arguments we've made here.
[*We have repeatedly defended the rights of service members, active duty, to take part in protests and to speak their minds freely provided they were not in uniform.  When Adam Kokesh was being targeted by the military, we were able to cite the difference in his case.  In uniform or not, he was taking part in street theater and the court had recognized that as legal during Vietnam when American service members -- active duty -- took part in street theater actions while in fatigues or uniforms.  From the Supreme Court's decision in Schacht v. United States (1970):
The Government's argument in this case seems to imply that somehow what these amateur actors did in Houston should not be treated as a "theatrical production" within the meaning of 772 (f). We are unable to follow such a suggestion. Certainly theatrical productions need not always be performed in buildings or even on a defined area such as a conventional stage. Nor need they be performed by professional actors or be heavily financed or elaborately produced. Since time immemorial, outdoor theatrical performances, often performed by amateurs, have played an important part in the entertainment and the education of the people of the world. Here, the record shows without dispute the preparation and repeated presentation by amateur actors of a short play designed to create in the audience an understanding of and opposition to our participation in the Vietnam war. Supra, at 60 and this page. It may be that the performances were crude and [398 U.S. 58, 62] amateurish and perhaps unappealing, but the same thing can be said about many theatrical performances. We cannot believe that when Congress wrote out a special exception for theatrical productions it intended to protect only a narrow and limited category of professionally produced plays. 3 Of course, we need not decide here all the questions concerning what is and what is not within the scope of 772 (f). We need only find, as we emphatically do, that the street skit in which Schacht participated was a "theatrical production" within the meaning of that section.
This brings us to petitioner's complaint that giving force and effect to the last clause of 772 (f) would impose an unconstitutional restraint on his right of free speech. We agree. This clause on its face simply restricts 772 (f)'s authorization to those dramatic portrayals that do not "tend to discredit" the military, but, when this restriction is read together with 18 U.S.C. 702, it becomes clear that Congress has in effect made it a crime for an actor wearing a military uniform to say things during his performance critical of the conduct or [398 U.S. 58,63] policies of the Armed Forces. An actor, like everyone else in our country, enjoys a constitutional right to freedom of speech, including the right openly to criticize the Government during a dramatic performance. The last clause of 772 (f) denies this constitutional right to an actor who is wearing a military uniform by making it a crime for him to say things that tend to bring the military into discredit and disrepute. In the present case Schacht was free to participate in any skit at the demonstration that praised the Army, but under the final clause of 772 (f) he could be convicted of a federal offense if his portrayal attacked the Army instead of praising it. In light of our earlier finding that the skit in which Schacht participated was a "theatrical production" within the meaning of 772 (f), it follows that his conviction can be sustained only if he can be punished for speaking out against the role of our Army and our country in Vietnam. Clearly punishment for this reason would be an unconstitutional abridgment of freedom of speech. The final clause of 772 (f), which leaves Americans free to praise the war in Vietnam but can send persons like Schacht to prison for opposing it, cannot survive in a country which has the First Amendment. To preserve the constitutionality of 772 (f) that final clause must be stricken from the section.
It's a damn shame the press ignored that verdict while miscovering the charges against Adam.]