Archive for September, 2010

Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, is a military cemetery in the United States of America, established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, formerly the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s wife Mary Anna (Custis) Lee, a great grand-daughter of Martha Washington. The cemetery is situated directly across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and near The Pentagon. It is served by the Arlington Cemetery station on the Blue Line of the Washington Metro system.

In an area of 624 acres (2.53 km2), veterans and military casualties from each of the nation’s wars are interred in the cemetery, ranging from the American Civil War through to the military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Pre-Civil War dead were reinterred after 1900.

Arlington National Cemetery and United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery are administered by the Department of the Army. The other national cemeteries are administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs or by the National Park Service. Arlington House (Custis-Lee Mansion) and its grounds are administered by the National Park Service as a memorial to Lee.

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs oversees the National Cemetery Administration’s orders for placement of inscriptions and faith emblems at no charge to the estate of the deceased, submitted with information provided by the next of kin that is placed on upright marble headstones or niche covers.

There are 39 authorized faith emblems available for placement to represent the deceased’s faith. See also, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs webpage “Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones” and “Markers” Markers

Prior to 2007, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs did not allow the use of the pentacle as an “emblem of belief” on tombstones in military cemeteries. This policy was changed following an out-of-court settlement on 23 April following a series of lawsuits against the VA.

Until 2005, the cemetery’s administration gave free access, with the family’s permission, to the media to cover funerals at the cemetery. According to the Washington Post, over the past several years the cemetery has gradually imposed increasing restrictions on media coverage of funerals.

After protesting the new restrictions on media representatives, Gina Gray, the cemetery’s new public affairs director, was demoted and then fired on June 27, 2008, after only three months in the job. Days after Gray began working for the cemetery and soon after she had spoken to the media about the new restrictions, her supervisor, Phyllis White, began requiring Gray to notify White whenever she “left the building.”

On June 9, White changed Gray’s title from Public Affairs Director to “Public Affairs Officer.” A few days later, when Gray took sick leave, White disconnected Gray’s email BlackBerry. In the termination memo, White stated that Gray had, “been disrespectful to me as your supervisor and failed to act in an inappropriate (sic) manner.” Thurman Higginbotham, deputy director of the cemetery stated that Gray’s release from employment, “had nothing — absolutely nothing to do with — with media issues.”

Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, has asked his staff to look into Gray’s dismissal. Said Gray in response, “I am definitely encouraged by any investigation into the mismanagement at Arlington Cemetery.” In July 2009 Gray filed suit against the US Army under the Freedom of Information Act, stating that the US Army had refused to publicly release its findings from the probe into Gray’s dismissal.

In the suit, Gray claims that the probe found that Higginbotham had lied to federal investigators and that someone had illegally accessed Gray’s government email account and sent an email in her name. The investigation reportedly had found that when the email was accessed from a cemetery office computer, only two employees, Higginbotham and a contractor, were present in the building. At least two members of Congress, Jim Webb and Howard McKeon, are watching the lawsuit.

The U.S. Army stated that it had not received any complaints about the newer, more restrictive policies concerning media coverage of funerals. But CNN reported that some families have complained about not being able to decide for themselves on the level of media access allowed.

On June 9, 2010, United States Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh reprimanded Arlington National Cemetery’s superintendent, John Metzler, and his deputy, Thurman Higgenbotham, after a United States Department of Defense inspector general’s report revealed that cemetery officials had placed the wrong headstones on tombs, buried coffins in shallow graves, and buried bodies on top of one another.

Metzler, who had already announced his intention to retire on July 2, 2010, admitted some mistakes had been made but denied allegations of widespread or serious mismanagement. The investigation also found that cemetery employees were burdened in their day-to-day work by “dysfunctional management, lack of established policy and procedures, and an overall unhealthy organizational climate.” Both Metzler and Higgenbotham retired soon after the investigation commenced.

Source:  Wiki


Exhumation confirms that Marine was buried in correct Arlington plot

Washington Post – By Christian Davenport

Washington Post Staff Writer

The remains of Marine Corps Pvt. Heath Warner, who was 19 when he was killed in Iraq four years ago, were positively identified Wednesday after his coffin was exhumed from the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

After finding inaccurate information in burial records, Scott Warner of Canton, Ohio, had grown concerned that his son might be interred in the wrong place and asked that his body be exhumed.

The exhumation, held under a brilliant blue sky shortly after 8 a.m., came after the cemetery discovered last month that two sets of remains had been buried in the wrong place. On Wednesday morning, Army spokesman Gary Tallman said three sets of remains had been involved in that mix-up but revised his statement later, saying he had been provided incomplete information by Army officials.

Warner said he lost faith in the cemetery’s leadership after the Army’s inspector general released a report in June that found widespread record-keeping problems at the nation’s most important military burial site, including 211 mislabeled or unmarked grave sites and at least four burial urns that had been dug up and dumped in a pile of excess dirt…

Shortly after the cemetery opened Wednesday, Warner and his wife, Melissa, were flanked by a small group of friends and relatives and a priest as they made their way to their son’s grave site. Two reporters were also invited by the family to attend.

A backhoe had already opened their son’s grave. Tallman said that process included pumping water out of the plot, which, like many grave sites at Arlington, rests below the water table.

Heath Warner’s headstone lay on the ground at the head of the freshly dug rectangular hole. Nearby, headstones were covered with green plastic garbage bins for protection.

When the family was in place by the grave site, the backhoe lifted off a large concrete slab covering the coffin. Then a cemetery worker lowered himself into the hole and emerged with an identification tag that had been affixed to the coffin. He handed it to an Army colonel, who rubbed off the dirt and handed it to the Warners.

They nodded their heads, indicating that it identified their son.

Then the workers placed harnesses on either end of the coffin that attached to the arm of the backhoe, which began to pull the casket out of the ground. It came up slowly, covered in dirt, and emerged over the lip of the hole at a tilt.

After it was pulled from the ground, the coffin was placed on a flatbed truck, covered in an American flag and taken to a cinder-block building in a maintenance area of the cemetery.

Scott Warner and a young Marine who was a friend of Heath Warner’s entered the building to make the identification. When they emerged a half-hour later, Scott Warner said, “It’s him,” to his wife, who embraced him.

“I can breathe,” Melissa Warner said. “I feel like a ton of bricks have been lifted off my chest.”…]

(Now for the true story via Burn Pit by Pvt. Warner’s Uncle)

Father Driven To Pick Through His Son’s Remains

On September 15, 2010 at around 0800 in the morning, a family makes their way into Arlington National Cemetery for the Disinterment of a Marine Private killed by an IED in Al Anbar Province Iraq on 22 November 2006 killing him and two others.

As they stood at the grave site, a forklift arrives to raise a coffin from the vault that had interred it for nearly four years. Arlington knew at this point that the vault and coffin had been opened. When the family became aware of this action, an unsettling air of distrust settled upon the gathering.

The father yells “you lied” as family members hold and calm him. The father already marred and angry by the uncooperative atmosphere and insensitivity of Arlington’s leadership; his grief now changes to anger. Another promise broken! Arlington, to seemingly cover their asses had breached the coffin the night before to ensure the Marine Private and the dog tags were in the assigned plot.

With a rotting corpse and the putrid stench of death permeating the air, a worker removes a dog tag from the coffin lid, wipes off the dirt, and hands it to the father. The forklift begins to raise the coffin; putrid water begins streaming out and those in attendance gasp as the fear of body parts falling from the unstable casket grips them.

Once removed, the coffin is lowered onto the bed of a truck and driven to a maintenance building where the verification process is to be held. In attendance inside were the father, a fellow Marine and friend of the Private who was to verify the remains, a Colonel, a Catholic Priest (arriving later), a Funeral Director, and some cemetery workers.

The father was already grieving and reeling from yet another confrontation with Arlington personnel the day before. He demanded and Arlington agreed the vault inside the grave would not be opened until he arrived the morning of the 15th. The father apprehensive about the day’s events was anxious if they would find his son inside. He fumed from yet another breach of trust.

The father rejects the dog tags offered to him as verification by Arlington. The dog tags may have been sufficient had the integrity of the coffin not been breached. However, since it had been prior to the family’s arrival; the father then requested visual verification. The staff at Arlington appeared unprepared for what was to come next, thus tipping the father’s hand.

His adrenalin already maxed and because of Arlington’s ineptness, the father instinctively jumps onto the truck in his dress clothes despite the rancid odor. The father begins digging through the water soaked; stench filled rotting dismembered remains of his son, in search of the severed arm with a tattoo on it. Meanwhile the Funeral Director is standing to the side, gagging. The father looks at the Funeral Director and tells him, “Get over here and do your job!”

Arlington’s assistance during this time consisted of providing him with latex gloves. The father removes his rancid dress gloves used in digging through the soupy carnage and discards them in the trash. He also removes his jacket, hat and sunglasses, and continues to search for the missing arm.

This arm with the tattoo would positively confirm that the unrecognizable severely decomposed corpse was his son’s. The father still searching as he inhales the pungent stench of rotting flesh discovers for the first time since his son’s death, that only a torso, arm, and leg were there.

Finally, after frantically searching the carnage, the arm is found under the torso with the tattoo mostly intact. The father in a gesture of love carefully and gently wipes away the dirt. He verifies his son. The veil of doubt is lifted. His son now placed in a new casket, the family looks on as the Private is reinterred, and now all are at peace.

Mike Warner


Senate Democrats Jump on Health Insurance Increases

WSJ – By Janet Adamy

Senate Democrats are jumping into the fight over a recent round of insurance rate increases – and this time, they are singling out specific insurers.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller sent letters warning five insurance companies against telling consumers their rates are going up because of new mandates in the health law. “This level of misinformation is not acceptable,” the Democratic senators wrote….

For Immediate Release September 20, 2010

Contact:  Scott Mulhauser/Erin Shields (Baucus) 224-4515 – Jena Longo (Rockefeller) 224-8374

Baucus, Rockefeller Demand Transparency from Insurance Companies on Premium Increases

Finance, Commerce Chairs tell insurance companies false statements, unjustified premium increases will not be tolerated

Washington, DCSenate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-West Va.) sent a letter today to insurance companies with the five largest enrollments in the country demanding more transparency in calculations of premium increases.  The Chairmen said today that they planned close oversight of the companies’ assertions about why premium increases might be necessary.  The Senate leaders also made clear they would not tolerate false statements about the effects of the new health care law on premiums, especially since non-partisan, independent experts have concluded the Affordable Care Act will not result in large health insurance premium increases.

“The era of egregious insurance company abuses is over,” said Baucus. “The Affordable Care Act shines a bright spotlight on insurance companies and gives us the tools to put an end to unjustified rate increases and consumer exploitations.  We simply will not tolerate deliberate misrepresentations and misinformation about the new health care law.  The truth is that the health care law increases the value people receive from their insurance, lowers out of pocket costs and provides consumers with free preventive care.  Independent experts have concluded that the law does not cause large premium increases, the American people deserve to know that and we’ll keep working to make sure they do.”

“It is unfathomable to me that while health care companies continue to post record profits they would think to raise premiums for American consumers, all the while blaming rate hikes on a law that improves our health care system, and will lead to a better life for families everywhere,” said Rockefeller. “It’s wrong and shameful. I want health insurance companies to be transparent and honest when increasing premiums – and health care reform is simply not to blame.  I will continue to do everything in my power to see that consumers are treated fairly, that they are put first, and receive decent, affordable care – always.”

The letter was sent to executives at WellPoint, United, Aetna, Health Care Services Corporation, and CIGNA.  The full text of the letter follows here.

Dear [Insurance Executive]:

We write to you concerned about unnecessary premium increases in 2011 and reports that insurance carriers are attempting to blame these premium increases on the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act). Your company has one of the five largest enrollments, which is why we are writing to you.

Unjustified premium increases from the health insurance industry are nothing new. While the economy has struggled, and individuals and families across the country experience what are often record premium increases, the health insurance industry has prospered. We have consistently called attention to reports that some major insurers have radically increased profits and reserves from the 2009 calendar year – many over 25 percent.  These increases were clear indicators that insurance companies would not have to significantly increase rates for the next year.

Rather than look to throw consumers a life line, early reports indicate that some carriers are looking to raise rates even further in 2011, while blaming the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act for these cost increases. This is irresponsible and unacceptable but is not, unfortunately, surprising –  there were reports of health insurers immediately blaming double-digit premiums increases for 2010 on the Affordable Care Act when the premium increases were filed with state regulators months before the legislation was even enacted.

Many patient protections included in the Affordable Care Act take effect for plan or policy years beginning on or after September 23, 2010.  These provisions will not only increase coverage but will also end some of the insurance companies’ most egregious abuses.  For example, insurance companies will no longer be allowed to arbitrarily drop coverage, impose lifetime or restrictive annual limits on benefits, or deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.  Also, young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ plan until the age of 26 under all plans, and preventive services, like cancer screenings and vaccinations, will be covered at no cost under all new plans.

All told, it is estimated that the increased value of insurance coverage and the new consumer protections created under the Affordable Care Act taking effect this year will increase health insurance premiums by only 1 to 2 percent.  And, to balance this very modest increase, consumers can expect lower out-of-pocket costs for important services like preventive care and greater protection from financial ruin.

Health insurers should be transparent about the assumptions they use to arrive at their premium increases.  It is important for insurers to account for the difference between their calculations of premium increases attributed to provisions in the Affordable Care Act and those calculated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as well as many industry and academic experts.  Insurers should also account for the reasons why record industry profits and reserve levels have not resulted in lower premium increases.

If an insurer thinks it can blame the enactment of the Affordable Care Act for its rising premiums, it is surely mistaken. This level of misinformation is not acceptable.  As Chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee, we are committed to ensuring that consumers are treated fairly and will closely examine any potentially misleading communications to consumers.

And if an insurer thinks it can continue to impose double-digit premium increases, while providing fewer health benefits and enjoying record surpluses, it is again mistaken. There have been too many reports of insurance companies imposing insurance premiums increases at will with little oversight or public accountability. We are committed to ensuring that premium increases are fair and justified.

The Affordable Care Act promotes greater insurer accountability. Recently, HHS announced grants to states to bolster their review of proposed premium increases and a number of states have already enacted new laws to ensure fair and accurate premiums for consumers.  In 2011, the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to publicly justify premium increases that are deemed unreasonable and requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on health care instead of administrative costs and overhead.  And, in 2014, the Affordable Care Act gives states and HHS the power to deny participation in insurance market exchanges to plans with a track record of unreasonable premium increases.

We have and will continue to strongly encourage states and HHS to use their existing authority as well as the authority created under the Affordable Care Act to its fullest to ensure that premium increases across the country are justified and communications are honest. We will continue to work toward ensuring that the federal and state governments have the necessary resources and authority to review potentially unjustified premium increases and to hold insurance companies accountable.

Insurers are an integral part of the success of The Affordable Care Act and we must work together to ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health insurance.

Max Baucus
Committee on Finance

John D. Rockefeller IV
Committee on Commerce
# # #

WSJ Commenter “Common Sense” wrote:

At their core, fully insured health plans are in the business of appropriately pricing risk. And it is not just their risk to profits (for the anti-insurance people) – it is risk to the policy holders that there is enough premium reserves to cover the cost of the medical expenses because PPACA requires them to cover more people and more services.

– Additional people covered (cover children up to age 26) = more medical expense with little premium increase
– More services covered (100% coverage of preventative care) = more medical expense
– Services covered to greater extents (no annual/lifetime limits) = more medical expense
– Required to let sick people jump in only when they need it (no pre-existing condition without a strong coverage mandate) = a lot more increase in medical expense in comparison to increase in premium

With the risk going up dramatically in multiple ways, what did you think would happen to premiums? Magic fairy dust would rain down and it would just all work out? You don’t get something (additional people and additional services) covered for nothing (premiums stay the same). The math doesn’t work.

When [medical expenses] > [premiums – admin – profit], then premiums rise. You can’t add additional medical expense without premiums going up.

Admin costs might come down a little, but in real world comparisons, they are already relatively low – as low as any comparable financial industry and where they do come down, expect lower admin service – to levels more like the government. Profits WILL come down some, but their margins are so thin in comparison to most industries (~4%), there is little room to go down and still stay in business, much less keep shareholders happy.

And you can complain all you want about executive pay, but in reality, while it may be a valid philosophical point (no one is worth those kinds of dollars), quantitatively, it would make no difference to healthcare if all the insurance executive pay went to zero. It is simply too little in comparison to the total cost.

The key purpose of the health plan is to pool the risk of individuals (which are generally have a low probability they will come true but have an unbearable cost if they do) and then fairly cover the agreed upon expenses for everyone. When you allow more risk in (no pre-existing conditions) at no additional cost and increase the amount of services covered (no limits, age 26, etc.), premiums are certain to go up. I think there were many people who stated this would happen BEFORE the legislation was passed.

Now the people in Congress who ramrodded this legislation through want to try to silence reality. No way! It is accountability time! It’s time to understand reality.

And by the way – making it not be private insurance companies (aka public option) still does nothing to change the equation other than exchange 4% profit for 40% inefficient government. WE still pay – probably a LOT MORE.

Related (WSJ): Health Insurers’ Move to Drop Child Policies Draws Criticism

Gateway Pundit: DNC Caught Promoting Anti-Beck Tea Party Rally

Unease among Socialists over Gypsy stance

EL PAÍS (F. G. / A. D. / À. P.)

The ruling Socialists are disconcerted at their leader’s lack of criticism with regard to France’s controversial move to deport Romanian gypsies. While Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero defended Nicolas Sarkozy in Brussels, the Socialist Group in Europe put forward a motion in Congress stating that “collective expulsions are contrary to European community law, European values and European principles.”

Last week, Spanish Socialists in the European Parliament voted against the deportations, and the Socialists’ website still carries a note stating that the actions of the French government are “a collective and objective expulsion based on ethnic premises, which is against European construction and the principle of citizenship.”

The note also demands a political position with regard to the French government and adds: “The Union cannot allow populist actions by governments that wish to seek scapegoats.”

The issue, meanwhile, is turning into an unexpected windfall for the opposition Popular Party (PP). On Friday, the head of the Catalan PP, Alicia Sánchez Camacho, took French Eurodeputy Maria Thérèse Sánchez-Schmid on a guided tour of Badalona, so the latter could see with her own eyes whether the Spanish town had the same conflicts with Romanian gypsies as she claims French cities do.

“The situation is comparable. There are the same problems of coexistence and insecurity as in my country,” said Sánchez- Schmid after the two-hour tour, in which several local residents spoke of their negative experiences with the Roma community.

“Nobody wants to kick them out,” she said. “It is not ideal. But if they won’t integrate,we need to find a solution.”

Funeral Blues

W.H. Auden (1907-1973)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

The Louvre pierces the secret sands of Saudi

LE FIGARO – By Eric Bietry-Rivierre (English Translation)

An exhibition rich in archaeological treasures shows that the development of caravan routes do not begin with Mohammed.

There were concerns that this exhibition is a thank you from the Louvre to its generous patrons Saudis. But the Roads of Arabia is more than just a glorification of Islamic monarchy. The three hundred pieces selected – stelae, sculptures, pottery, silverware and precious jewels – had mostly never left the eastern peninsula. Together, well presented including maps, films and panoramic photographs of beautiful scenery offered by a desert four times as large as France, they have the force of a revelation: that of a bright and prosperous past, almost unexpected in our latitudes.

The pre-Islamic period, in particular, is rich. Surprise: the Saudi authorities have played fair by allowing the development of anthropomorphic sculptures. It was not won because in the Gulf official history begins with Islam in the seventh century AD. Above all, Muhammad put an end to polytheism by destroying the idols and the Muslims unanimously reject any figurative image of God.

We discover a whole series of civilizations, the first of which is active from the fourth millennium BC. The finest of his figures and also the most enigmatic – nicknamed “the suffering” because of its expression – has been found in the North, and has never even been shown in public in Saudi Arabia.

Newer, three giants in red sandstone, topped with Egyptian, wearing a loincloth and sandals, were uncovered after an earthquake and subsequent excavations in the ancient city of Dedan, not far from the oasis of al-Ula (North). Like all other visible remains in 1500 m² of hall Napoleon, the Louvre has restored. One of these giants has been identified as a king belonging to a dynasty in power between the fourth and third centuries BC. AD

Best-known, successor to the mysterious Nabatean Lihyanites. Neighbor al-Ula, the necropolis of Hegra is a hotbed of ancient cave architecture, a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2008. A little sister of Petra in Jordan in a way. It is from that Hegra including two splendid jars visible to the Louvre and a marquee in Corinthian simplified. Documents which show the close ties maintained in the desert with the Nabatean traders incorporated into the Roman Empire under Trajan.

On site, the excavations continue to complete the story that binds, from the first millennium BC. J.-C, the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia with India, the Horn of Africa and Egypt by the caravan cities. They are partly financed by Total, a company that has also contributed to the achievement of this exhibition to the tune of 200,000 euros.

An impressive series of headstones

The second part of the exhibition shows the continuity and intensification of trade during the Muslim era. The difference is that the axes ranging from oasis to oasis, pilgrims mingle now to the merchants. An impressive series of gravestones, came to Mecca, to understanding the evolution of styles and decorative calligraphic between the tenth and sixteenth centuries. Not far, various elements of embellishment saints – Locks shrine, incense burners, candlesticks – show the myriad ways in which faith can invest in art.

Until the monumental gate of the Kaaba offered by the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV (1623-1640). Silver hammered gold, patterned on Multifoil vegetal decoration. It was she who protected him for three centuries the black stone embedded, remnant, it is said, the shelter offered by God to Adam to protect the Flood … The course ends with an evocation of the birth of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

Statement from Admiral Allen on the Successful Completion of the Relief Well

“After months of extensive operations planning and execution under the direction and authority of the U.S. government science and engineering teams, BP has successfully completed the relief well by intersecting and cementing the well nearly 18,000 feet below the surface.  With this development, which has been confirmed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, we can finally announce that the Macondo 252 well is effectively dead.

Additional regulatory steps will be undertaken but we can now state, definitively, that the Macondo well poses no continuing threat to the Gulf of Mexico.  From the beginning, this response has been driven by the best science and engineering available.  We insisted that BP develop robust redundancy measures to ensure that each step was part of a deliberate plan, driven by science, minimizing risk to ensure we did not inflict additional harm in our efforts to kill the well.

I commend the response personnel, both from the government and private sectors, for seeing this vital procedure through to the end.  And although the well is now dead, we remain committed to continue aggressive efforts to clean up any additional oil we may see going forward.”

UPDATE:  Obama goes to church to hear a Muslim speaker!

Anita Hill, 2 other lesbians in committed relationships welcomed as ELCA pastors

Star Tribune – By JEFF STRICKLER,

In a ceremony that started with a public mea culpa and ended with a prolonged standing ovation, three lesbian ministers were officially embraced Saturday by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

The three were the Rev. Anita Hill, pastor of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul, and two Minneapolis chaplains: the Rev. Phyllis Zillhart at Fairview Home Care and Hospice and the Rev. Ruth Frost at the Hospice of the Twin Cities.

Although they never had been officially recognized by the ELCA, the three of them have a combined 60 years of service as Lutheran pastors.

“This is both a historic and an insignificant day,” the Rev. Peter Rogness, bishop of the ELCA’s St. Paul synod, said shortly before he and the Rev. Craig Johnson, the Minneapolis bishop, jointly oversaw the ceremony.

It was historic because it “opens doors to new possibilities,” Rogness said. But it was insignificant in that “next week, next month and next year, they will be doing the same thing they did last week, last month and last year: pastoring to people.”

Officially called a Rite of Reception, the ceremony began with an unusual litany of confession in which it was the church rather than the congregation admitting to wrongful behavior.

“We have fallen short in honoring all people of God and being an instrument for that grace,” the statement said. “We have disciplined, censured and expelled when we should have listened, learned and included.”

…Other than the applause that greeted the official blessing of the pastors, the biggest reaction came at the start of the sermon. The Rev. Barbara Lundblad, who teaches preaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York, began by saying that she was going to ignore the guidelines that she insists her students follow.

Then she added with a wry smile: “I think there are people here today who realize that sometimes rules have to be broken.”

Stalin’s Spanish prisoners

New book tells of the trainee Republican pilots left stranded in the Soviet Union at the end of the Civil War. Imprisoned in gulags, some did not return for many years


”I, Hermógenes Rodríguez, am addressing you with regard to the following matter: I was sent by the government of the Spanish Republic to the Soviet Union in 1938 to take part in a pilot’s course that I was unable to complete. I asked for my immediate repatriation, which has been denied to this day. Since 1941 I find myself inside a concentration camp out of the mere fact of being

Hermógenes Rodríguez was one of 180 Republican aviators undergoing training in the USSR when the Civil War ended and left them stranded. The letter was addressed to G. M. Malenkov, who succeeded Stalin at the helm of the Soviet government, and was written in May 1953, two months after the latter’s death. This and other letters are included in Los últimos aviadores de la República (or, The Republic’s last aviators), a new book written by Carmen Calvo Jung and published by the Defense Ministry and the Aena Foundation.

Carmen Calvo is the daughter of one of those aviators, José Calvo, who left Spain with the thought of returning soon to go to war, but took 15 years to get back. During that time, he was shuttled to various prisons and forced labor camps, becoming one more victim of the Gulag Archipelago, the network of Soviet internment camps where anybody could end up for any reason. That is where the Spanish members of the Blue Division, which had gone north to fight the Red Army, ended up. Their confinement fits into the logic of war, which divides the world into friends and enemies. But what were the pilots of the Spanish Republic doing there as well?

Carmen Calvo took time off from her job in Berlin, where she worked as an architect in the restoration and conservation of landmark buildings, to find the answer to a question that had always eluded her father while he was alive. Neither the documents she received after his death, nor the history books helped clear up the mystery. So Calvo spent 10 years exploring 24 archives and institutions in Spain, Switzerland, France, Germany, The Netherlands and Russia, following the trail of those aviators who were trapped in the USSR and unable to return to Spain or go into exile in a third country, as they wanted.

Her family connection to one of the pilots opened the doors to the personal files of the other heroes of this story. Almost no one wanted to talk, but nearly all of them put their memories down on paper. José Romero Carreira, for instance, described the harsh conditions at the Kok-Usek camp, where the mortality rate was upwards of 60 percent: “The minimal food rations we were given had sunk us all into a state of starvation. […] Every shred of social varnish had disappeared. The titled individuals, the refined spirits, the aristocrats had descended to the level of primitive men. The most refined spirits of Vienna lived side by side with the rough, illiterate cart drivers and shepherds from Romania. Children had to defend their food rations from their own parents. It was the kind of tragic situation that man can fall into when circumstances unleash the forces of his subconscious.”

Of the 25 pilots who were interned until 1948, Romero was one of the few who was put on trial and convicted. The reason? His participation in a hunger strike by the Blue Division inmates to demand better conditions in 1952. His second “crime” was to set up a school to teach the Division members to read and write. “The Republicans always held their head high. Their great lesson is that every person has to care for the others,” says Carmen Calvo, who is considering making a documentary about the children of those Spanish prisoners of Stalin. So why were they kept there in the first place? “Because they didn’t want the world to know that there were Republicans who felt uncomfortable in paradise.”

Final Haditha Case in Limbo

Puckett & Faraj Blog

This week, a military judge is considering the defense motion to dismiss the charges for denial of Wuterich’s right to detailed defense counsel. The ruling is expected next week. The final Haditha trial of the last Marine from the original 8 charged was scheduled to begin on September 13, 2010.

The defense team for SSgt Wuterich submitted a motion on August 25th based on the recent U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals ruling on the murder conviction of Marine Sgt Hutchins (see U.S. v Hutchins III, Docket # 200800393, 4/22/10). The court overturned the Hutchins conviction and released him from prison based on the government’s violation of his statutory right to military counsel. The government is appealing that ruling to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

SSgt Wuterich’s originally detailed military defense attorneys, Major Haytham Faraj and LtCol Colby Vokey, were both retired from the Marine Corps without first following proper military court procedures to be released from the Wuterich case. The U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals stated that detained defense military attorneys can be released from a case by a military judge only for good cause, but that separation from active duty or retirement of the military attorney alone does not constitute good cause.

In a surprise move, the defense team for Wuterich requested and obtained over the prosecution’s objection, the main prosecutor’s administrative paperwork in which he requested to remain on active duty to complete the Wuterich case. The documentation showed decisions by senior military officers to keep the prosecution team together for this important case including refusing to move attorneys from Camp Pendleton until the case is complete. Even Marine Corps manpower regulations were violated to keep the prosecution team in place while the two military defense counsel requests to stay on active duty were denied.

The Wuterich trial process is nearing the end of its fourth year and is currently scheduled to resume on November 2, 2010. The trial is expected to last three weeks, and ironically will celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Haditha incident in the middle of the trial.


Sarah Palin speech in Iowa keeps fans guessing


…If she does run, she would be expected to reach out to Republicans in Iowa more than her schedule today indicates, Republican campaign strategists said.

“I’m not making any assumptions that she’s in the race,” said Bill Lacy, who managed Republican presidential campaigns for Bob Dole and Fred Thompson. “But even with her level of celebrity, it would be very hard to win a race without engaging voters in a very retail way.”

Palin is expected to speak to more than 1,000 Iowa Republican donors tonight at Hy-Vee Hall as the featured guest for the state party’s annual fall fundraiser.

Palin, who has not sat for media interviews on her political travels this year, has no plans to take questions from media at the dinner, or even meet privately with party leaders, candidates or top donors before the event. Palin is expected to depart Iowa immediately afterward.

If she runs, Palin could try a different tack

It’s an unusual approach in Iowa for someone mentioned by some as a top prospect for the 2012 presidential nomination.

By contrast, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, also a 2012 prospect and the Reagan dinner’s keynote speaker last year, met privately during his visit with Iowa’s Republican Party chairman and national committee members and held interviews with Iowa press.

Since then, Pawlenty has visited Iowa four more times and hired an Iowa political staffer. He’s scheduled to return in October.

Palin’s approach is in keeping with her arm’s-length relationship with the Iowa Republican Party since stepping aside as Alaska governor last year.

When Palin resigned in July 2009, state party leaders invited her to headline last year’s fall fundraiser. Receiving no answer, party organizers renewed the invitation periodically last year, hearing nothing until Palin’s political action committee asked in July whether the invitation was still open.

Palin complained publicly this month about news media portrayal of what unfolded with the invitation. She said the media gave the wrong impression that she was courting Iowans.

Some Iowa strategists stand by conventional wisdom that Palin would be expected to spend plenty of time in Iowa courting Republicans. But others said Palin has found a way to defy convention so far.

Kim Schmett, a Clive Republican, said Palin’s popularity may allow her to campaign differently, should she run. Palin has been able to stay relevant despite giving up her elected position and has remained visible without engaging widely in traditional media, Schmett noted.

She frequently uses social media, for instance, with 253,660 followers on Twitter as of Thursday.

“I think Sarah Palin has really mastered an unorthodox style,” said Schmett, who ran for Congress from Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District in 2008. “She doesn’t do what normal campaigns do. Her style is not what you would expect from someone running for president.”

Lacy said Palin would be wise, should she decide to run, to use social media as a way to organize an on-the-ground approach, the way President Barack Obama’s campaign did in winning the 2008 Democratic caucuses in Iowa.

“What you do is you take the new media and you integrate it with a traditional retail campaign,” said Lacy, now director of the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. “You have to fight it out in the trenches of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and doing the new media to further that.”

Support for Branstad irks Vander Plaats’ fans

Palin could face skepticism from some Iowa Republicans about her endorsement of former Gov. Terry Branstad in the primary for governor. The No. 2 finisher, Bob Vander Plaats, received 41 percent of the vote on June 8.

There remains some bitterness from the primary.

Vander Plaats never endorsed Branstad after a post-primary meeting between the two went poorly, and Vander Plaats’ supporters tried unsuccessfully to nominate him for lieutenant governor at the state convention.

Some Republicans said Palin’s endorsement of Branstad, the Republican establishment candidate, over Vander Plaats, an outsider more associated with tea party supporters, betrayed her image as a rebel.

“Do I think it’s a disqualifier for her with regard to my base?” said Vander Plaats, a Sioux City businessman. “Not a disqualifier, but it complicates the vetting process for her. There is some significant blowback in Iowa.”

Vander Plaats is now campaigning against the retention of three Iowa Supreme Court judges who participated in the unanimous ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.

Vander Plaats, who was 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s Iowa campaign chairman, said he likely would support the former Arkansas governor if he sought the 2012 nomination. Huckabee has said it’s unlikely he’ll run again.

Vicki Crawford, a Granger Republican who supported Vander Plaats in the governor primary, said that before Palin’s Iowa endorsement, Crawford would have considered backing Palin in a potential caucus campaign. Not anymore.

“She has changed her focus in the last year to win-at-just-about-any-cost instead of do-right-at-all-costs,” Crawford said. “She would not be my choice unless something changed drastically.”

RCP:Mark Levin Trashes Newt Gingrich As A “Phony” And “Has Been”

Mark Levin criticized former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich as a “pseudo-conservative. This was apart of a nearly half-an-hour rant on the nationally syndicated “Mark Levin Show.” Colin Powell did not escape criticism from Levin, either. Levin castigated him for voting for Obama. Powell not only voted for him, he announced it on a liberal news outlet and did so, he held off until the last minute to do the maximum damage he could,” said Levin. “It was an utter lack of disloyalty and dishonor,” Levin added. Levin went on to criticize Gingrich for supporting Colin Powell and told the former speaker he does not know the same Ronald Reagan that he does. Levin accused Gingrich of having too much personal “baggage” and “undisciplined” when he makes public comments. Loyalty and integrity

Coming Soon: Great American Conservative Women Calendar


By Dick Morris And Eileen McGann

…Yesterday’s primary victories of O’Donnell in Delaware, and DioGuardi in New York illustrates how the Tea Party is cleansing the Republican Party and installing true believers over professional politicians. It is a healthy trend that will continue to recreate the Party of Reagan.

But the conventional media, instead of hailing this trend, warns that conservatives cannot be elected and bemoans the victory of true believers saying that it is equivalent to handing seats to the Democrats and the liberals. This reasoning, which made sense in other times, is badly flawed in today’s political climate.

When social issues like abortion, gays, and guns dominate the political discourse, moderates have a big advantage. Voters in these times tend to measure themselves on a left to right spectrum and find those flanked sharply to their right to be extremist on these issues and reject their candidacies.

But these days, social issues are in remission and economic/fiscal problems have, understandably, taken center stage. In this environment, purists of the right have a big advantage because nobody doubts the sincerity with which they embrace the goals of limited government, low taxes, and reduced spending. Politicians of all stripes – including most Democrats – vow allegiance to them as does the overwhelming majority of the electorate. In this environment, the distinctions of left and right give way to the difference between sincerity and insincerity, leaving the voters to judge. With candidates like Sharron Angle in Nevada or Christine O’Donnell in Delaware or DioGuardia in New York, voters don’t have to guess. They know real conservatives when they see them…

Will the White House Play the Palin Card?

The Atlantic – Marc Ambinder

… Tying the mainstream GOP to the Tea Party is a topic under discussion in the White House. But how? Trying to make John Boehner a foil for the election, or even Jim DeMint, or even Glenn Beck, is like spending half of the amount you’ve budgeted for a nice wool suit. Instead of Dolce and Gabbana, you wear Kenneth Cole.

There is, in fact, a much better avatar of the Tea Party movement, someone whose very name provokes disgust among Democrats, someone whose name identification is 100 percent and whose ubiquity is extremely useful.

That person is Sarah Palin.  All that’s required is for the President to utter her name a couple of times. The Fox-Rush-Redstate nexus would explode. Palin would bask in the attention and respond. And respond. And respond. The press would cover the story and ask why the President would elevate Sarah Palin? David Broder might write a column bemoaning the fact that the President chose politics over the institution of the presidency, which is supposed to respect the dignity of all Americans.

Elevate Sarah Palin? How much higher can she go? Everyone knows her.  Some of Obama’s advisers have argued in the past that the attention paid to Palin by Americans in the last stages of the 2008 campaign is one reason why Obama was able to win so cleanly.

Palin and the Tea Party movement are not the same thing. The movement, evolving out of movement conservatism, is principally about government and the economy. Palin revels in the culture wars. But when that part of the Tea Party that does care about social issues becomes the story, linking the two in the public’s mind is easier…


Murkowski supporters: come to “campaign kickoff” tonight

“I’m not much of a poker player, but the analogy I’ve been using is that I’m sitting there and I’ve been dealt a six and an eight,” Murkowski told the paper. “I’m not much of a poker player, but the analogy I’ve been using is that I’m sitting there and I’ve been dealt a six and an eight. But it is possible.”


Murkowski says ‘Let’s Make History’

Lisa Murkowski hits up lobbyists

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, NRSC:

“Republican primary voters spoke when they nominated Joe Miller in Alaska, and I am deeply disappointed in Senator Lisa Murkowski’s decision to ignore that clear message and wage a write-in candidacy. The NRSC stands firmly behind Joe Miller’s nomination, and we will ensure that he has all of the resources that he needs in order to win this November.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell, Senate GOP leader:

“Senate Republicans informed Lisa Murkowski that we will respect the will of the voters in Alaska and support the Republican nominee, Joe Miller. I informed her that by choosing to run a campaign against the Republican nominee, she no longer has my support for serving in any leadership roles, and I have accepted her letter of resignation from Senate leadership. Lisa has served her state and our party with distinction, but Republicans acknowledge the decision Alaskans made and join them in support of the Republican nominee, Joe Miller—the next Senator for Alaska.”


Primary voters spoke. Listen to the people, respect their will; w/a 40-pt incumbent lead & $2.8 million war chest, voters chose Joe instead

Lisa Murkowski to run a write-in campaign

The Alaska Standard – By Dan Fagan Publisher

Just as Frank and Lisa Murkowski put their own interests ahead of the nation’s eight years ago with nepotism, Lisa will once again put political ambition ahead of love for country.

Your television screen will reveal to you something very important today. At five today Sen. Lisa Murkowski will announce live that she is running as a write-in candidate after losing her Republican Primary bid for senate.

The thing to look for is those who will be standing behind her. The Murkowski camp has been sending out invitations to legislators and other key supporters requesting they come down to the Anchorage Convention Center this evening at five and stand behind Murkowski to show support.

Take a close look at those standing behind Murkowski. You will be looking into the eyes of establishment Republicans desperately trying to hold onto our country’s big government, special interest ways.  The Murkowski live news conference will reveal to us those in the party who probably never were conservatives.

It will reveal to us those in the party who don’t quite get the fact that we are broke. We are out of money and the pork they so desperately want Murkowski to bring to Alaska will be paid for by our kids since every dollar the feds spend now is either borrowed or printed.

The folks standing behind Murkowski cannot seem to grasp the immorality of leaving our children with a debt so heavy, big, and overwhelming it will surely mean a quality of life much inferior to the one we live today.

The folks standing behind Murkowski today on your TV screen at five don’t understand there is a movement rising up made up of folks who say enough is enough when it comes to big government. This movement is sweeping the nation and Alaska and will prevail in November.

Most Alaskans and Americans understand our country is spending itself into oblivion and unless we begin to show fiscal discipline, our nation is heading toward a cliff.

Watch closely tonight at five on your TV screen and you will see folks standing behind Lisa Murkowski who are on the wrong side of history.

The Hill – By Elise Viebeck

Though he didn’t name her specifically, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) blasted Senate colleague Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.) Friday morning during a speech to the Values Voters Summit.

“Even in Alaska, the home of bacon, they threw out that senator,” DeMint told an applauding crowd as he discussed the Tea Party movement.

He also took the opportunity to praise Murkowski’s challenger, local Alaska attorney Joe Miller, to whom she conceded the Republican Senate primary on Sept. 1, and to express his fondness for the Tea Party movement.

“Tea parties? I’ve been to a lot of them,” he said to more applause.

He went on to criticize “senior Republicans in the Senate” for not supporting insurgents.

“Some of our establishment friends are not really happy with me, or you,” he said.

With comments like these, DeMint has increasingly found himself at the center of tensions between establishment Republicans and rising Tea Party challengers.

On Friday, he acknowledged his role in encouraging Republicans who “understand the importance of having a culture based on values.”

“I’ve been working to stir up primaries between establishment Republicans and those that stand for the principles of freedom,” he allowed, listing GOP Senate nominees Sharron Angle (Nev.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rand Paul (Ky.), and Christine O’Donnell (Del.) as “candidates we can be proud of.”

“This is no longer you voting for the least-worst on the ballot,” he told the audience. “Washington has treated Americans like they were stupid for too long. On November 2, you’re going to see who is stupid. They’re going to be out of Washington, and you’re going to be in.”

Christine O’Donnell Nails Her First Major Speech Since Her Election

The Atlantic – Nicole Allan

In the most anticipated speech at today’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, Delaware’s new GOP Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell ignited the Omni Shoreham ballroom with a tangible buzz. She strode onto the stage to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” with orange spotlights sweeping the room. (None of the other afternoon speakers got a light show.) The packed crowd gave her an enthusiastic standing ovation, continuing to applaud long after she took the podium.

She wore a black suit and pearls and seemed nervous at first, ticking off the perilous resume of Obama’s Washington: health care reform, the stimulus, bailouts, terrorist trials in Manhattan. “The conservative movement was told to curl up in a fetal position and just stay there for the next eight years, thank you very much,” she said, then pausing as a big grin spread across her face. “Well, how things have changed.” The audience broke into applause, and from that point forward, O’Donnell seemed to relax. Her speech featured quotable bits about American patriots throughout history and overstepping liberals, and even featured a few self-deprecating cracks.

“The small elite don’t get us,” O’Donnell said. “They call us wacky. They call us wingnuts. We call us ‘we the people.'” Addressing the GOP infighting her nomination has come to symbolize, she admitted, “We don’t always agree. … We don’t always endorse the same candidates or speak off the same talking points. We’re loud, we’re ratty” — when the crowd laughed, she corrected the word to “rowdy,” fumbling a bit. “We’re that too,” she said. “We’re passionate.”

Further proving her penchant for fantasy epic fanhood, she told a story from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. When one of the children asks whether Aslan, the lion who symbolizes Christ, is safe, another answers, “‘Course he’s not safe! But he’s good.”

“That’s what’s happening in America today with this grassroots groundswelll,” O’Donnell said, “with this love affair with liberty. It isn’t tame, but boy, it sure is good.”

O’Donnell settled into a bit of a folksy rhythm not too dissimilar from Sarah Palin’s speaking style, acknowledging the left’s criticisms and giving as good as she got:

Will they atttack us? Yes. Will they smear our backgrounds and destroy our records? Undoubtedly. They will. There’s nothing safe about it. But is it worth it? … I say yes, yes, a thousand times yes. This is no moment for the faint of heart. Some have accused us of being just an aging crowd of Reagan staffers and home-schoolers. They’re trying to marginalize us and put is in a box. … They don’t get it. We’re not trying to take back our country. We ARE our country.

C-SPAN Video:  Christine O’Donnell (Listed to the speech for yourself and decide…)(1:30-1:50)

Are O’Donnell Skeptics Sexists? RINOs? Both?

Can’t all us grizzlies get along?

TWS – BY Mary Katharine Ham

…But the O’Donnell race was different. She is seen as a Palin-esque figure. Any criticism of her was deemed akin to the brutally unfair media treatment Palin got in 2008, and the retaliation for such treatment was correspondingly passionate. And, thus those who worked in the Reagan administration, wrote the book on Obama’s Chicago past that the media wouldn’t, profiled Marco Rubio as a credible candidate in May 2009, cheered the defeat of RINO Dede Scozzafava, energetically defended the Tea Party against accusations of racism and violence, and dogged Martha Coakley as she gaffed and shoved her way to a stunning loss in Massachusetts became sexist RINOs (or were personally attacked on Facebook) because they addressed legitimate shortcomings of one female candidate. There’s a real struggle going on between some of the establishment, which is skeptical of Tea Partiers, and the grassroots. But skepticism in one race over one candidate does not an “establishment sell-out” make.

The thing is O’Donnell is not Palin, whose substantial record was often ignored in favor of a reporter pile-on unmatched in its intensity and focus on petty, often unfair and untrue, personal psychoanalysis and questionable narrative-fitting anecdotes. Criticism of O’Donnell from conservatives was not akin to the treatment Palin got and deploying the same type of attack on longtime conservative allies as one would on the New York Times or Nancy Pelosi is not productive. It’s the Meghan McCain strategy for winning friends and influencing people. We hate it when she paints conservatives and Republicans with a broad brush, reinforces our adversaries’ stereotypes of us, marshals little proof in defense of either, and then asks us to merrily join hands with her as she fights for our cause. Why are we pulling a Meggie Mac on each other?

The people of Delaware spoke, O’Donnell is the nominee, and she’s done very well in her debut interviews in the national spotlight. She is certainly conservative on policy, and a skilled campaigner. I am not here to defend the disrespectful treatment of her by the NRSC, which announced it would not back her immediately after her win before back-pedaling, or the Castle camp’s decision to stealthily campaign against her. I’m not deeming legitimate every mainstream media and liberal attack on her religious beliefs or sexual mores, which have already become as nasty as the ones on Palin.

What I’m genuinely interested in is that, for conservatives, the trauma of Sarah Palin’s genuinely horrible treatment by the media does not lead us to reflexively deem assessing a candidate’s record or character an act of beytrayal. This political process happened in primaries all over the country, with genuine conservatives often lining up on different sides of the fight. The newfound enthusiasm for excommunication arose in the O’Donnell race because O’Donnell reminded everyone of Palin and her critics consequently  reminded O’Donnell backers of Palin critics, fairly or unfairly…

I bet the derby and I won by a nose
I bet Vegas and they took my clothes
I bet Monte Carlo, I was showin’ my stuff
I bet on you baby, now ain’t that enough?

You got to give it up
Give it up baby
Give it up