Writings and observations

Not too often does the Arabic news agency al-Jazeerah take note of Northwest figures. It did in this passage from an opinion piece posted today:

The strategy to militarize the country is moving forward as planned despite apparent setbacks in Iraq. As the Washington Post reported on Nov. 27 the Dept of Defense is expanding its domestic surveillance activity to allow Pentagon spies to track down and “investigate crimes within the United States”.

An alarmed Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore) said, “We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America. This is a huge leap without a congressional hearing”.

Is this the first time that the naïve Wyden realized that the war on terror is actually directed at the American people?

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On the senator’s part, he’s just doing what senators usually do by way of passing along information. The question is, why is Senator Larry Craig – and no doubt he isn’t the only 0ne in this position – being used by federal agencies as bearers of bad tidings?

Larry Scott of VA Watchdog, who lives in Washington and is heard on Portland radio, has a peculiar story to tell. Here’s an excerpt from his post on Op-Ed News.com:

Earlier this year, veterans were surprised by the VA’s “second signature required” (SSR) policy. SSR applied to approved claims for many “high-dollar” disabilities and stipulated that the claim be re-approved by another VA staffer. However, if the claim was denied by the first staffer, there was no second review.

Veterans’ groups claimed that a SSR policy should apply to all claims for any condition whether they were approved or denied. The fact that the VA chose to apply SSR to disabilities with “high-dollar” compensation was proof to many veterans that the agency was just trying to save money by denying benefits.

The SSR policy was NOT announced by the VA. Only some very good investigative work by Cheryl Reed of the Chicago Sun-Times brought the story to light. This is just one of many instances where the VA has instituted policies detrimental to veterans without making the actions public.

The latest “unannounced” move by the VA is a new review of PTSD diagnosis, treatment and compensation. The VA’s plans came to light on November 16, just six days after they had canceled a review of 72,000 PTSD claims awarded at 100 per cent disability. Pressure from veterans’ groups and Democrat members of Congress forced the cancellation.

The VA’s new PTSD review was not announced by the VA. There was no VA press release. There was no VA press conference. The information was not posted on the VA web site.

Information about the new PTSD review was made public in a press release by Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The release, in part, said, “The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that it has contracted with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) on a two-pronged approach to the examination of PTSD.”

Except, the VA hadn’t announced anything. They were using Senator Craig as their conduit to hand out the bad news. Since Craig’s press releases don’t have a high readership, this information has gone virtually unnoticed.

Upon reading Senator Craig’s press release I called the Public Affairs Office at the VA. They had no knowledge of the review. I then called the Institute of Medicine. They had no knowledge of the review.

Senator Craig’s office was more helpful. They forwarded the two documents the VA had sent to them. One document is a Fact Sheet detailing the contract between the VA and the IOM. The other is a Question and Answer sheet.

One wonders: What’s the take within Craig’s office on all this?

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The traditional take on the p0litics of campaign finances is that most people don’t care where the money for their candidates is coming from, and that it will not likely affect their vote.

If that is beginning to change – this being a debatable proposition – blogs could be one of the key reasons why.

Jim FeldkampBroadcast news media seldom mention campaign finances at all, as a matter of specifics about specific candidates. Newspapers sometimes note the totals, and occasionally list a major donor or two, but that’s generally as far as it goes.

Some of the political blogs, however, have been digging deeper. Now, today, we’re seeing specific impact affecting a substantial candidacy.

The candidacy is that of Republican Jim Feldkamp, who is rerunning his 2004 matchup against long-time Democratic incumbent Peter DeFazio. Feldkamp is an underdog, but he has started early and apparently has been working hard. And fundraising hard; and maybe a bit incautiously.

Last week, the Eugene Register-Guard published a story about local Democrats calling on Feldkamp to return $10,000 his campaign had received from indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. That drew on a response that DeLay, though indicted, had not yet been convicted and so was not yet guilty.

Then bloggers at the Democratic blog Blue Oregon added meat to the bones. Blogger Jon Perr noted, as the paper hadn’t, that “in May 2005, the Jim Feldkamp for Congress campaign was fined $1,000 [see page 11] for failing to acknowledge all relevant contributions in the required 48-hour reports, including $5,000 from Delay’s ARMPAC the previous year.”

Monday, Blue Oregon blogger Kari Chisholm wrote that finance records also show Feldkamp received $1,000 from American Prosperity PAC – the political action committee set up by disgraced, resigned and guilty-pleading former California Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

That may have struck a nerve. This morning, though the contribution apparently was unreported elsewhere, Feldkamp’s campaign said in a press release it was getting rid of the money:

I was saddened to learn U.S. Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA) has resigned from the U.S. Congress upon admission of pleading guilty to conspiracy and tax charges.

Congressman Cunningham’s service to our nation as a Vietnam flying ace is legendary – he proudly fought for our country and for that we shall always be grateful for his service.

In light of the current events, I feel it is necessary that I donate the $1,000 contribution Congressman Cunningham gave to my 2004 congressional campaign to Food For Lane County.

It’s possible Feldkamp’s campaign decided to get ahead of the story and planned the dispersal before the blog item spread. But the timing is interesting at least.

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