February 2007

UPDATE 3/1/07: I am definitely against them punishing the soldiers with inspections and formation while they are sick and wounded, but I am still not sure about telling them to not talk to the press. I heard on Randi Rhodes’ show yesterday that the best thing for the wounded troops and their families to do is to talk to the patient advocate at the hospital or the base chaplain.

Original post below:

I am not completely sure how I feel about this article. On the one hand, soldiers belong to the army and the army can tell them not to talk to the press. On the other hand, this administration tells LOTS of people they can’t talk to the press and tells the press and even the governors of all the states what questions they aren’t allowed to ask. Maybe the soldiers can start being “an anonymous soldier who asked to not be identified.”

I am VERY glad to see that the residents of building 18 are moving back to the hospital campus. Now let’s get ALL of them processed and back to their communities with good health care back home!


Walter Reed patients told to keep quiet


By Kelly Kennedy – Staff writer

Posted : Wednesday Feb 28, 2007 17:03:08 EST

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have
their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of
punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.

Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.

They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.

The soldiers said they were also told their first sergeant has been relieved of duty, and that all of their platoon
sergeants have been moved to other positions at Walter Reed. And 120 permanent-duty soldiers are expected to arrive by mid-March to take control of the Medical Hold Unit, the soldiers said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Army public affairs did not respond to a request sent Sunday evening to verify the personnel changes.

The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople:
“It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.

Related reading:


Walter Reed soldier wins small victory

Gates’ candor on hospital woes lauded

Pentagon names members of Walter Reed panel

Renovations underway at Walter Reed

Wounded and waiting

The LA Times has just figured out what people in the National Guard have known for years. The Guard is here to protect people IN THEIR STATES, or maybe the state next door, and NOT to go be combat troops. Why is it news to them that if you send the Guard and all their equipment overseas then they don’t have enough left at home? What happens when the next hurricane hits? DUH!!!!!

Why do you think they didn’t mention Louisiana or Mississippi and Hurricane Katrina ???

Governors warn of troop buildup’s impact on Guard

Both Republicans and Democrats say Bush’s Iraq plan will tax

already strained units.


By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Times Staff Writer
February 25, 2007

WASHINGTON — Republican and Democratic governors meeting here Saturday warned that President Bush’s “surge” of additional troops to Iraq would put added pressure on National Guard units already stretched to their limits.

“We the governors rely on the Guard to respond to natural disasters, a pandemic or terrorist attack,” said North Carolina Gov. Michael F. Easley, a Democrat. “Currently, we don’t have the manpower or the equipment to perform that dual role” of responding to both state and federal needs.

The Pentagon last week announced plans to send 14,000 National Guard members to Iraq next year as support for the 21,500 troops to be deployed under Bush’s plan. The announcement came on the heels of a change in Pentagon policy to deploy Guard troops more frequently but to limit tours to a year; the average now is 18 months.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, said the federal government must
follow through on its pledge to replace equipment taken by Guard troops to Iraq.

“Those promises need to be kept,” Pawlenty said. “We’ll be able to test that, because we have a significant number coming back this summer. We’ll be able to see if the equipment comes back.”

The governors’ willingness to challenge the buildup reflects overall impatience with Washington, which has inspired a slew of state initiatives to tackle such issues as global warming, energy efficiency and healthcare.

Eighty-eight percent of stateside Army National Guard units are “very poorly equipped,” with less than half of what they need to respond to a domestic crisis, Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum testified a few weeks ago to the independent Commission on the National Guard and Reserves.

Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, coordinates between the states and the Pentagon.

He said 45% of Air National Guard units lacked the necessary equipment to deploy.

Last month, National Guard officials notified commanders in Arkansas, Indiana, Oklahoma and Ohio that their combat brigades — each about 3,500 strong — might be the first to return to Iraq under the new guidelines, redeploying between January and July of next year. All four states sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq in 2004. Under the old rules, Oklahoma was not scheduled to be called on again until 2010; the other three states, 2009.

In interviews, National Guard officials in Arkansas, Indiana and Oklahoma said their units were short on rifles and other basic equipment.

“We are hurting in equipment nationally, Guard-wide,” said Lt. Col. Deedra Thombleson of the Indiana National Guard.

Governors, in town for a National Governors Assn. meeting, plan to raise the issue Monday at a White House session with Bush. Guard officials plan to talk to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates about it Tuesday.

“We will do all that we can to support the effort, but getting the equipment to do that will be a challenge,” said Maj. Gen. Roger Lempke, head of the Nebraska National Guard and president of the Adjutants General Assn. of the United States.

Equipping the Guard is of particular concern in states such as California and Florida, where troops are routinely called to respond to natural disasters like hurricanes and forest fires.

“We want to protect our troops and make sure they have what they need to deal with natural disasters,” said Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican.

Gov. Easley of North Carolina called National Guard equipment levels across the country “putridly inadequate.”

And without adequate equipment, he said, the National Guard’s role in the buildup would amount to “a squandered mobilization.”

With plans to increase the frequency of Guard deployments — now once every
six years — North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, a Republican, said that getting enough troops for a second rotation in Iraq was “a concern.”

The governors association president, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat who has advocated sending National Guard troops to secure the
U.S.-Mexico border, said the Guard was “being stretched” to respond to the buildup.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, is reviewing the plans with his National Guard leadership to assess the impact on the state. He has advocated doing what’s necessary to ensure success in Iraq but said he would not support a policy jeopardizing California’s safety.











Note: Revisions and additions have been made to this post. Sorry for earlier errors and omissions. —Freckles

The Head-On Radio Network has added a new talk show host:
Jeff Alan Wolf

His show, which he describes as “unfiltered, unspun, a little unhinged, but with a whole lot of common sense”, can be heard on weekday mornings from 11AM-2PM Eastern time. It also replays in the evenings at 9 ET and again every weekend. Jeff has only been doing political talk radio for 6 months, but had several entertainment shows on terrestrial radio airwaves for 16 years. Jeff Alan Wolf From his Arizona studio, he talks about national politics and current events from a progressive viewpoint. Jeff considers himself both a progressive and a liberal, and he has been a democrat ever since he was old enough to vote. Jeff joined the head-on radio network where he was already friends with Bob Kincaid. Since then he has met Guy James, Mark Levine and Jon Fox on the phone.

In addition to radio, Jeff has also worked as an actor (including a small part in Sean Penn’s first movie), a store manager, a magazine editor and a writer. He is still a professional photographer, and also likes to watch sports and loves to spend time with his girlfriend, who is also his news producer, the wonderful Natacha. They collect books, and they like exploring their new State of Arizona and cooking gourmet meals together. Even though he lived in Florida most of his life (except 3 years in Brooklyn, NY when he was a baby and the last year and a half in Arizona), Jeff mostly likes sports teams from places he didn’t live: Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Dallas.

He also likes listening to other hosts from the head-on radio network, and also other liberal and progressive hosts on other networks, but the new show is keeping him busy up to 15 hours a day. Part of that 15 hours is spent reading emails sent to wolfpacktalk@yahoo.com , preparing the show, and marketing the show. He can occasionally be found in the HORN chat room. But all that doesn’t keep him from watching Keith Olbermann, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert whenever they are on TV.


Click on these links to learn more about Jeff Alan Wolf.

The Jeff Alan Wolf Show webpage

HORN webpage

HORN chat room

24 hour show comment line: 206-350-3919

Email Jeff: wolfpacktalk@yahoo.com


The head-on radio network can also be heard on itunes radio.

These should keep you occupied until my big interview gets posted tonight or tomorrow.







I made it to the BLOGMAD top 10 THREE more times in the past two weeks

You can vote for me here or on the big VARB symbol. Just pick the number at the bottom of the screen after you click.
Varb For Me
Also, please check out the new info on my about page and my new page.


Feb 13 Blogmad

Feb 12 Blogmad

Feb 8 Blogmad

Congratulations on FIVE grammy awards!!!!!

Dixie Chicks at the 2007 Grammy Awards

p2110010.jpg Today I was with hundreds of other people protesting against the governor’s plan to use 9 additional power plants for coal. There were people of all different ages, and a lot of people brought their dogs. They had different kinds of political music there and lots of speeches. One was by a state senator, one by a pastor, one by a doctor, and a few by high school and college kids. Here are some pictures. I wrote about the rally last week and you can read that post here. (Thanks Betsy for taking photos!)

MONDAY UPDATE: There is a story and pictures about the protest in today’s Austin-American Statesman.



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I posted all my favorite animated GIF’s on my ABOUT page. Go check them out. Here’s a sample.


devil-1.gifmouse.gif050106ta5_prv.gif sled.gif

I’m working on a new story about the State of Texas not giving enough money to the schools, but in the meantime, some cartoons!







I like this show and watch it half the time. Didn’t watch it this week, and think I may not. They COMPLETELY mix up the “morning after pill” and the abortion pill on this episode, advertising the program as being about one of them and then including multiple references to the other on the show. What do you think is better, boycotting the show or writing to the producers?

(thanks to Think Progress for the story)

Popular Teen TV Show To Claim Morning-After Pill Can Cause A Miscarriage

Tonight, the CW network will air an episode of Veronica Mars that is based on misleading right-wing claims about contraception. The show is about a young woman named Veronica Mars, who is both a college student and a part-time private investigator. This week, Veronica is hired by Bonnie, “a promiscuous classmate, to find out who secretly slipped her the morning after pill, causing her to have a miscarriage“:


The basis for tonight’s Veronica Mars episode is more than just an innocent factual error. It dangerously confuses the facts on women’s health and furthers incorrect right-wing claims.

The morning-after pill — also known as Plan B — is not an abortion drug. It is a form of emergency contraception that when “taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, the two-pill series can lower the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent.” It cannot cause a miscarriage. Plan B works only when taken before a woman becomes pregnant.

While Plan B is now available over the counter to women ages 18 and older, it comes after three years of political stonewalling by the Bush administration. In 2003, a panel of independent advisers told the FDA that it “overwhelmingly backed nonprescription sales [of Plan B] for all ages.” But the Bush administration interfered and blocked Plan B sales in a pander to the right wing, which argues that the drug increases promiscuity. (See the real facts here.)

Veronica Mars is extremely popular among young women, the very women who need accurate health information. E-mail Paul Hewitt, CW’s Director of Publicity, and tell him that CW needs to correct its information on emergency contraception.

UPDATE: In tonight’s episode, Bonnie makes clear that a friend slipped her RU-486, the abortion pill. But as of the show’s airing, CW’s website still lists the morning after pill as the cause of the character’s miscarriage.

My note: TV.COM still has the episode labelled as

There’s Got to Be a Morning After Pill

Here’s the clip, provided by my good friend Daniel at I remember when I lost my mind.

Episode Number: 56 Season Num: 3 First Aired: Tuesday February 6, 2007


Just got this from MoveOn. I hope to go. If you are in Texas, please come.


Governor Rick Perry and the Texas State Legislature are deciding whether or not to build 19 new dirty coal-fired power plants. Come to Austin and tell them we need a clean energy future—not more health problems and global warming! Can you come to the State Capitol for the rally?

Stop the Coal Rush Rally
Sunday, February 11th, 2007
3:00 p.m.

And if you can, stay for the Citizen’s Lobby Day
Monday, February 12th, 2007
2:00 p.m.

Register here: http://www.stopthecoalrush.com/moveon

Dear MoveOn member,
Governor Rick Perry is pushing through the construction of 19 new dirty coal-fired power plants in Texas—just as the new Congress is getting serious about global warming solutions in D.C. These plants alone would release more greenhouse gasses into the air than would be cut by the most progressive proposals currently in Congress.

He is rushing to get the coal plants built before any new legislation kicks in, and if he succeeds, he’ll be unilaterally taking us backward in our urgent fight against global warming. And Texans can look forward to more bad air quality days and increased asthma rates.

A coalition of groups including American Lung Association and Texas Sierra Club Legal Action have organized a rally at the Capitol in Austin at noon this Sunday to stop this. Can you join them to demand that Texas pursue a clean energy future?

Click here to attend the Stop the Coal Rush Rally:


What: Stop the Coal Rush Rally
When: Sunday Feb. 11 at 3:00 pm
Where: Texas State Capitol
Austin, TX

Already, more than half of Texans live in areas where the air fails to meet federal minimum health-based standards. These plants would add an additional 124.5 million tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the skies over Texas each year, further threatening the health of Texas citizens and accelerating the pace of global warming.


If you’ve never tried BLOGMAD, you probably should. It shows your blog to many people and if most of them like your blog, you can get on lists like these. Pretty cool, eh?

Jan 30 Feb 4

This is important news, and I am very glad that this program is starting. I hope they also offer it for free to 7th, 8th, 9th & 10th grade girls as well.



According to Ralph Blumenthal in today’s New York Times,

Under the order, girls and women from 9 to 21 eligible for public assistance could get free shots immediately. The governor’s office said parents could opt out of the school program “for reasons of conscience, including religious beliefs.”
nurseVaccine   nurse1.gif

Governor requires HPV vaccine for sixth-grade girls

Sexually transmitted virus can cause cervical cancer.

Listen to this article or download audio file.Click-2-Listen

Saturday, February 03, 2007 nurse

Gov. Rick Perry on Friday issued an executive order calling for all girls entering sixth grade in Texas, starting in September 2008, to receive a vaccine against a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. While Texas parents will be allowed to opt out of having their daughters get the vaccine, conservative groups are protesting.

Texas is the first state requiring girls to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus, the country’s most common sexually transmitted disease.
Some strains of HPV cause cervical cancer, a disease that killed nearly 400 Texans in 2006, the governor’s office said.

“The HPV vaccine provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer,” Perry said. “Requiring young girls to get vaccinated before they come into contact with HPV is responsible health and fiscal policy that has the potential to significantly reduce cases of cervical cancer and mitigate future medical costs.”

Texas Capitol

But Cathie Adams, president of Texas Eagle Forum, a pro-family organization that opposes mandating the vaccine, said it gives girls false hope that sex is safe.

“We’re very unhappy because it’s not a crisis, because parental rights are being usurped and we believe young girls are being experimented upon,” Adams said. “Would they be more promiscuous? Chances are very good that they would be.”

Perry ordered that the vaccine be made immediately available to low-income Texans through the Texas Vaccines for Children and Medicaid programs.

That would cost $50 million in the first year: $29.4 million in state funds and the rest in federal funds, said Perry spokeswoman Krista Moody.

The market cost of the vaccine, Gardasil, is $360 for the three-dose series.

Federal officials approved the vaccine in June and added it to a list of recommended vaccines for girls. Most insurance companies cover vaccines
on that list.

Merck, the drug company that makes Gardasil, is bankrolling efforts to pass state laws across the country mandating the vaccine for girls as young as 11 or 12. It doubled its lobbying budget in Texas and has funneled money through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country.

Perry received $6,000 from Merck’s political action committee during his
re-election campaign. And one of the drug company’s three lobbyists in
Texas is Mike Toomey, Perry’s former chief of staff.

“This is not a political issue,” Moody said. “This is an issue of women’s health.” State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, author of a bill proposing a
required HPV vaccine for girls, said Perry’s order is “terrific news.”

“A big chunk of my work is done,” said Farrar, who said she had precancerous cells removed a few years ago after having an abnormal Pap
smear. “I’m very excited he’s made this such a priority. This is going
to save so many lives. This is going to wipe out a cancer.”


In the past few days, two people died who’ve affected my life indirectly. The first was Molly Ivins, one of my role models and a great liberal Texas voice. The second was Kenneth Kincaid, who I never met, but who must have done something right to raise Bob Kincaid and to be so admired by him.

I’ve also been touched by a few other deaths in the past year. The most horrible was the sudden death of a 7th grade girl that I knew, a girl I went to elementary school with. She was younger than me and died only a few hours after getting sick. That was super sad for her family and for the whole community. She died while she was on a school trip, and that made it even worse.

The other death was of a 38 year old man who was the father of a friend of mine. He spent almost three years dying, and a lot of that time preparing his family and himself for his death. He wrote letters that Elyse will read when she graduates high school and when she gets married. He also recorded videos for her and her mom.


I have an internet friend who is dying of cancer, and who talks about it. Yesterday he said that he will soon be visiting with Molly, and that got me thinking even more about death. I will miss him a tremendous amount when he dies, but I don’t know what will happen to him. The real him, the soul and not the body.

I have no idea what happens to us after we die. I don’t know if our mind or soul goes to the places we visit in our best dreams or if we see the people that died before us or if nothing at all happens and it’s just over. I don’t know if we go with angels or with God or old friends. I don’t know if this is something I will understand better when I get older or if it’s just something to think more about.

I also think about how I never met my grandparents and about how I will feel when my parents die. I think I probably won’t feel too much about my dad’s death because he hasn’t been in my life since I was five. But I think about my mom dying a lot. She’s an addict and she’s in prison, so her chances of dying early are pretty high. I worry about her and hope she gets better. She also abused me really badly for a long time and part of me thinks it will be easier to finish getting past all that myself after she dies. I don’t wish her dead, but I don’t know how I will react when she does die.

My brother is in the military, but he is safe and sound in Texas. I can not even imagine life without him, so I refuse to even consider the idea that he will die before he turns 100.


I also think about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you asked a kid my age there, how many people would they know that died? Would they be people that died from accidents and diseases? Or from bombs and bullets? How scared are the kids there about never seeing their families again? Or about dying themselves?


There is no solution to death. But if everyone had all the medical care they needed and if no one started wars, a lot of people would live a lot longer and have a beautiful dignified death with the people they love sitting by their beds.