Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Power of One: Pope, President, King, Ayatollah, Dictator - Outrageous

Iran's "Supreme" Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

No one man, one woman, or one person should have the power of the millions under their system of whatever they have - never. Those who tolerate the single voice, single rule, or single law don't deserve life itself. Now, true, much of what spews from Iran and other places like that (e.g., North Korea) are just hot air, but must also be taken seriously based on their record of aggressiveness.

This headline: Iran rejects access to military sites, scientists

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's supreme leader vowed Wednesday he will not allow international inspection of Iran's military sites or access to Iranian scientists under any nuclear agreement with world powers. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told military commanders Wednesday that Iran will resist “coercion and excessive demands” from America and other world powers.
A few keys points here I think are: (1) what does resist mean, (2) what does “excessive demands” mean, (3) and how would Iran react in the long run?
A bit more from Khamenei below is also troublesome, but with or without teeth (that remains to be seen).
Background: A fact sheet on the framework accord issued by the State Department said Iran “… would be required to grant the U.N. nuclear agency access to any suspicious sites.” (my emphasis)
But Khamenei indicated that the Americans are increasing their demands that international inspection of Iran's military sites and interviews with Iranian scientists be included in the final deal, saying in part: “The impudent and brazen enemy expects that we allow them talk to our scientists and researchers about a fundamental local achievement but no such permission will be allowed. No inspection of any military site or interview with nuclear scientists will be allowed,” he told military commanders via a TV broadcast. He further said that “interviewing Iranian nuclear scientists would be an affront to Iran's dignity and I will not allow foreigners to interview — which is tantamount to interrogation — the prominent beloved scientists and sons of this nation.”
So, Iran for sure considers the U.S. to be a brazen and impudent enemy? Interesting choice of words and pretty powerful stuff indeed. Fodder for the GOP no doubt??  
So, stay tuned – this story is developing. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Birds of a Feather, yada, yada, and A-Holes: All Flock Together

Walker: birdbrain for sure or as we used to say "Shit bird" (USMC lingo)

Jindal: a bit of anchor baby, birdbrain, shit bird, and plain hypocrite

Walker first:  It is well known how anti-Union, anti- public employee, and anti-women Scott Walker is and his polices in WI show it ... but this little tidbit from him awhile back just about takes the proverbial cake. From his campaign plea, the perfect Christmas gift: "[for] ... you to buy for your children this year – his reelection fund."  This is not a joke. In his fundraising email, he says (dated December 2, 2013):
Instead of electronics or toys that will undoubtedly be outdated, broken, or lost by the next Holiday Season, help give your children the gift of a Wisconsin that we can all be proud of
And then he continues on to let you know that donations of "$5, $10 or $25" will help. The donation sentence and link is repeated twice. It’s all pretty amazing. Almost unbelievable, except that there it is – they’ve got the email, and you can read the whole thing..

Now Jindal:  "We are not African-Americans, we are not Asian-Americans, we are not Indian-Americans,” Jindal (R-LA) said to roaring applause at the SC Freedom Summit in Greenville recently.  Even as he tours the early primary states for a likely presidential bid, his disdain for “hyphenated Americans” has become a central part of his campaign.  He took it up a notch in Greenville, referencing the use of hyphenated identities in his claim that President Barack Obama “tries to divide us by race”

Right now Mr. Jindal needs a "Rick Perry oops moment" to recover … Mr. Anchor baby Jindal, and yes, he is an anchor baby by any definition – if in doubt ask any GOPer what an anchor baby is, they will tell you it's a pregnant woman who comes here with her hubby for whatever reason (Jindal's parents were grad students from India) and who are not Americans. She has a baby, the baby becomes U.S. citizen automatically, then parents try later to become citizens.  That was Jindal.

But the real Bobby (Bobby is his reel name) Jindal hypocrisy oozes out this way and carefully documented:

1.  Not long ago, Jindal embraced his hyphenated identity, using it to boost his quick ascent up the political ladder. For example while in Congress (as GOP Rep) he co-sponsored a resolution to recognize the accomplishments of the “Indian American” community.

2.  He regularly spoke proudly of his heritage as an Indian-American during media interviews and embraced the term for years as he raised millions of dollars in campaign cash from the Indian-American community.

3.  Even as a former Assistant Secretary HHS in the George W. Bush administration, Jindal began his rise to elected office in 2003 with his first bid for LA governor. During that campaign, he raised money from Indian-American-organized fundraisers in NY and Washington. At a fundraiser in Georgetown, Jindal thanked the crowd, saying he was “especially grateful to the Indian-American community because with your support we’ll be able to go on television,” as reported to and according to India Abroad.

Two birds with the same feathers for sure and both not ready for prime time in the White House.
Not merely my opinion – but based on facts and facts should matter. After all, we are talking character here, which it is obvious they both lack a great deal of.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Military Injustice: Sad Case for Army Major and the Army, Too

Army Captain Mathew Golsteyn Receives Silver Star (Jan 4, 2011) 
(for action in battle in February 2010 in Afghanistan)

June 2009: President Obama Announces McHugh (R) as Army Secretary

This tragic story is about Army Major Mathew Golsteyn, and his roller-coaster military career from battlefield hero to whispers of a war crime is rooted in the deadly month of February 2010, when American-led allied forces seized the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in Afghanistan's Helmand province.
Insurgent snipers unleashed fire on Forward Operating Base (FOB) McQueary. A patrol of about 80 troops headed out across muddy poppy fields to find the enemy. Over a four-hour firefight, then-Captain Golsteyn repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire as he helped evacuate a wounded Afghan soldier and directed repeated airstrikes on the enemy, according to the Army's narrative of why he was awarded a Silver Star medal.
Then, about two months before being promoted from Captain to Major in November 2011, he had an interview with the CIA. He talked about something he'd done during the 2010 deployment before the battle near Marjah.
Now, as Paul Harvey was famous for saying: “The rest of the story:”
Golsteyn claimed to have captured and shot and buried a suspected IED bomb maker. He further went on to comment that he went back out with two others to cremate the body and dispose of the remains, that according to a memo summarizing the Golsteyn case. In short: “Captain Golsteyn stated that he knew it was illegal but was not remorseful as he had solid intelligence and his actions protected the safety of his fellow teammates.”
The Army CID (Criminal Investigative Division) acting on the CIA's tip, could find no one who corroborated Golsteyn's claim to have hunted the bomb-maker after an attack that killed two Marines. Nor could they find any cremated remains of the Afghan IED maker in question. Despite that, investigators said in part: “Golsteyn committed the offenses of murder and conspiracy based on the interview provided by the CIA,” in a September 29 memo first published by the web site "The Intercept."  LTC Christopher Kasker, a spokesman for Army Secretary John M. McHugh, confirmed the memo is authentic.
The bottom line, if there will be a fair bottom line: The American legal system requires witnesses, a body, or some evidence that a crime occurred, says Golsteyn's lawyer. His own statement isn't enough to prosecute him. Why not?
“You've got to have something in addition to somebody's confession to convict him of a crime," attorney Walker said. “That's a safeguard against official misconduct and abuse. If all you need is a confession, well let's just beat a confession out of the guy and we're all done."  
Last fall, Secretary McHugh revoked Golsteyn's Silver Star presented three years earlier
McHugh also rejected a recommendation to upgrade Golsteyn's honor to the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest military decoration a soldier can receive for extraordinary heroism. Then in February, the Army initiated the process to kick Golsteyn out of the active-duty military. He was taken out of action and assigned to a headquarters unit.
My reading on this case and I have no inside information - only what I have read: The Silver Star awarded and taken away was NOT related to the supposed crime Golsteyn admitted he committed a few months before the battle he was awarded the Silver Start for happened.
That award should stand. Major Golsteyn should not lose the Silver Star for something that occurred earlier that is unrelated to the IED killing, if it even happened. 
Secretary McHugh I believe was wrong to approve the revocation of that award. As I said, the two events are not related. He can be punished fairly for the IED killing, if proven true and factual, and not lose the combat award that has nothing to do with that event.
As a side note: I personally know Secretary McHugh - having run for Congress against him in 1994 (I lost the race), and he is a honorable man and doing a fairly good job in office since 2009. That is not the issue, however.

From what I know about this case, the award was pulled for an act that occurred in a battle that happened before the IED killing... pulling that award disgraces the act and battle loses for which Major Golsteyn earned it in a heroic fashion - there was nothing dishonorable about that battle the award was given for - it should be given back to him.

In essence, pulling that Silver Star award the way it was pulled amounts to punishment retroactively. That surely cannot be the Army way, fair way, or just way. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Pop Quiz: Identify 242 Weasels in a Room: GOP War Women Redux

Listen Up: Not Your Body, Not Your Healthcare, Not Your Pregnancy Decisions: It's Ours
/s/ The GOP

For those who say there is no GOP "War on Women," I say, you listen up, and take notes.

Background: The House of Representatives on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 passed H.R. 36, named the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” via Roll Call vote: 223, which passed: 242-184 with 5 not voting, and 1 present.

This story from herethe upfront part is gut-wrenching in the mother’s own words. How did this GOP-run House react? Those GOPers seems to think they are are Ob-Gyn experts – disgusting to the say the least. Imagine it were your wife and she had to decide based on her doctor’s view vs. the GOP’s view? Scary isn’t it? Damn right it is.

“The common practice is based on the science of fetal development and the observation that unborn children who are not given anesthesia elicit a hormonal stress response to painful stimuli, which is alleviated by the effects of anesthesia as it is in adults.” That conclusion offers indisputable medical evidence of the concept of fetal pain, says Arina Grossu, Director of the pro-life Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council.

Opponents of the bill, and many medical experts (see below), think differently, for example. 

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, tells Yahoo Health News that “Banning abortion after 20 weeks based on [assertions about fetal pain and viability] is misguided because science does not support these concerns. These unproven assertions — contested by most major medical organizations — are the latest in a long line of attempts to move the conversation about abortion from one of medical decision making to one of heated rhetoric and dubious science, [adding that] information about pregnancy should be medically accurate and it should be available to women who seek it so that women can use it to inform their decisions and make the complex, deeply personal medical decisions best for them.”

The current bill also insists that a second doctor be present at second trimester abortions where there is a chance that the fetus would be viable and has no provisions for women who find themselves in a situation like Christie Brooks (lead in this story), knowing that continuing a pregnancy in certain circumstances could lead to watching a child die right after birth, or suffer greatly due to unimaginable disabilities and repeated, invasive medical interventions afterwards.

Now from the medical experts – and not members of Congress:

“The issue of fetal viability outside of the womb is a controversial topic, if for no other reason than the fact that there is “no point when [viability] is clearly established” in a fetus’s development,” explained Dr. Hal Lawrence, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in a press call on Wednesday soon after the bill was passed.  

Dr. Lawrence notes that “the vast majority” of abortions occur in the first trimester; those taking place in the second trimester are often performed in “very difficult situations” where women “need empathetic care, not persecution and restrictions” as they are faced with “heart-wrenching decisions,” adding: “The last thing we need to do is make women and their families suffer more.” The adding: “[there] … is no medical milestone associated with 20 weeks; the 20 week mark is not notable from a fetal development standpoint.” NOTE: A fetus at 20 weeks is not viable outside of the womb even with extensive medical care.

Dr. Lawrence also spoke to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on the outcomes of viability for live births at 22 weeks, noting that the study found that only 5 percent of children born at this point survive, all of them with severe mental and neurological handicaps, and that the study only looked at babies without fetal anomalies (imagine those with horrific anomalies)."

"Abortions performed after 20-weeks are often conducted because of severe abnormalities found in the fetus that would prevent it from surviving outside of the womb, even if born at full-term. Thus, Dr. Lawrence concluded, “… it is essential to debunk claims that 22-weeks as a new point of viability as a myth before it becomes [wrongly] accepted as reality.”

B/L: The harsh rabidly partisan GOP strikes again with more fear and anti-women health care in mind, too. Why would we have expected anything else from them? A simple Good Grief will suffice. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tragic Event, But More Tragic: GOP Reacts by Cutting Amtrak Funding

Amtrak Wreck Near Philly

Need another valid reason to despise the GOP with their meat axe budget cuts? Then look no further than here to see how they reacted to this recent tragedy. Kinda pathetic isn't it? 

From the story here, this in part:

But just because the accident struck close to home does not mean Congress will increase an already shrunken budget for transportation. Just hours after the derailment, which claimed at least seven lives and left scores more injured, the House Appropriations Committee held an uncomfortably timed markup of its annual transportation spending bill and moved forward with a $250 million cut from last year’s Amtrak funding of approximately $1.3 billion.
Democrats urged Republicans to keep the accident in mind as the hearing progressed and members debated how much the government should contribute to modernizing and repairing transportation infrastructure, including Amtrak.
“The bill does not provide funding to address the capital needs required for safety,” said Rep. David Price (D-NC), who is the ranking member of the transportation subcommittee of the powerful appropriations panel.
GOP Approach to Common Sense Spending
Price called for a new budget agreement with higher spending levels because, without such a deal, transportation programs would continue to be as he says, “… a victim of the majority’s self-imposed austerity.”  
I note: Mr. Price is 100% correct, and I would also add: Shame on the GOP – shame on them.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Short and Sweet: John Ellis (JEB) Bush IS NOT Ready to Be President

Pose in Front of a Flag, the Lincoln Memorial, or at Liberty University
(it matters not - he is not ready to stand as CINC) 

His latest remarks ... a keeper for sure with a huge whew boy, another wild Bush growing out of control and of course aided by FOX (why is that?). Oh, yeah, FOX supports the Bush family, the Iraq war, and hopefully another Bush and another war…!!! It sure seems that way with the parade of hawks FOX show cases on the air practically 24/7…  

THIS STORY IS CITED HERE: John Ellis (JEB) Bush (R-FL) says he would have authorized the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. That puts him on the same page right beside his brother who took us into that miserable war on a trumped up cause. 
JEB said on FOX: "I would have [authorized the invasion], and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got."
Stated on on FOX with Megyn Kelly – that will air Monday 
He also acknowledged that the “intelligence that everybody saw, that the world saw, was faulty,” adding that after the invasion, the U.S. ought to have focused on securing and stabilizing Iraq in order to shield its people from sectarian violence.
A second whew boy. This man knows squat about squat … apparently it must a defected Bush gene… and just like mother Babs Bush said: “We don’t need any more Bushes.” Amen to that, amen.  
F/N: How dare he speak for Mrs. Clinton or anyone. HILL and anyone else can and I'm sure will address his remarks, and rightly so. Yes, she and many other voted for that Iraq invasion, but not now knowing all the facts … well it's pretty silly to reflect back and say "I would have authorized it, too."
Kinda pathetic, really.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

NSA Metadata Collection Section of PatAct: Illegal Says Appeals Court

Nobody likes snooping of any kind...  

Court says this is not 1984

Wings clipped for now...
(so, put away the headsets boys)

Major update:

Two references relate to this story, both extracts below in part: 

THERE IS A COMMON PREMISE AMONG MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND MUCH OF THE PUBLIC THAT SAYS: “Congress can do what they please by enacting laws they choose and make decisions that they want.”

Thus, I add: They take their chances with any public outrage or legal fallout like now. Also, what is amazing is that there are a lot of lawyers in Congress – didn’t they know or suspect that the metadata gathering part of the Patriotic Act was illegal or should be?  


Specifics: In a 97-page ruling, a three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (out of NY) held that a provision of the USA Patriot Act permitting the Federal Bureau of Investigation to collect business records deemed relevant to a counter-terrorism investigation (that provision is Section 215 – gives NSA unlimited snooping and record gathering authority) cannot be legitimately interpreted to permit the systematic bulk collection of domestic calling records, as the Court said in part: “[that provision of the act] cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program.”

I think this part of the ruling is critically important: In ruling the program illegal, the judges said: “We do so comfortably in the full understanding that if Congress chooses to authorize such a farreaching and unprecedented program, it has every opportunity to do so, and to do so unambiguously (i.e., if they continue the program they do so knowing full and well it has been ruled illegal).

The House appears ready to pass a bill next week that would end the government’s bulk collection of phone records, but it faces resistance from the GOP Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). A similar bill died in the Senate last November after McConnell urged Republicans to block an up-or-down vote on it with a filibuster and now he urges a “clean extension of Section 215 until 2020 in its present form.”  

The appeals court did not reach a separate claim by the plaintiffs - the American Civil Liberties Union – that the program also violated the Constitution. This Court of Appeals overturned a ruling in December 2013 by a Federal District Court judge that the program was lawful. Parallel cases are pending before two other appeals courts.

Also, I have to say that I do not in any way support the way Edward Snowden revealed the NSA program in any way. He was wrong to leak information the way he did. Surely he would have contacted any member of Congress who would have lent-an-ear to his cause and pursued the issue other than seeing Snowden go to China and then on to Russia to leak, leak, leak and seek protection in Russia, where he still is today. The result about the program that the public now knows about is good and worthwhile; not the method Snowden used to leak it -- that was 100% wrong.

Finally, I think it is safe to say that a final say-so now lies squarely with the USSC, or they may allow the appeals decision to stand even if or when it goes there, and it should. 

Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Earth to Kansas: "You Have a Problem...!!!" Seriously, An Awful Problem

Gov. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas): Ultra-Conservative on the road to ????
(doom and gloom does come to mind)

Empty thinking could equal empty classrooms
                                               (possible result of Brownback's latest move)

Major Update (original post follows): This story via Yahoo news shows how common average hardworking Americans struggling see the harshness of the GOP and their budget schemes - yes, schemes.

TOPEKA, KS (AP) — A waitress who left a message for Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on his receipt at a barbecue restaurant said she thought it was more important to promote education funding than to get a tip. Chloe Hough of Lawrence was working her last shift Saturday night at Boss Hawg's in Topeka when she waited on the governor. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported here said that she later posted his receipt on Facebook, showing the line for the tip crossed out and the phrase “Tip the schools” written beside it. Ms. Hough declined to say how Brownback reacted to the receipt. A call to the governor's spokeswoman on Sunday was not immediately returned.
She also stressed that she had not discussed her plans with any manager or the owner of the restaurant, where she had worked for about a year, saying, in part: “It's a great restaurant and I didn't do it to hurt them.”
She also said that education funding is important to Hough because her sister receives special education services and because she believes it encourages social mobility. Her sister she also said, “… has lost so many dedicated educators who've been cut due to budget cuts," she said. "I think it should matter to everyone.”

So, Gov. Brownback: Meet a real person, not a harsh GOP-Conservative concept, that is hurt and impacted by your harsh impersonal budget policies:

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (John Hanna/AP); Chloe Hough (CBS Philly)
Gov: Meet a Hardworking Waitress. Ms. Hough: Meet the Gov, hard-nosed on education 
BACKGROUND THAT MS. HOUGH REFERS TO: Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill in April that (1) dropped the state's old school funding formula and substituted it with block grant funding; now (2) school districts have reported their funding was cut and are anticipating further budget cuts in the next few years, and (3) just recently it was reported that at least six school districts in Kansas plan to close a few days early this month because of budget concerns.

I add: GOP standing with the kids, their education and future, eh? Um … not in Kansas anymore, Toto!!!  

Original Post from Here: Historical look back at Kansas, once known as “Bleeding Kansas, or Bloody Kansas, or the Border War" was a series of violent political confrontations in the United States involving "anti-slavery Free-State/pro-slavery Border Ruffian elements" that took place in the Kansas Territory and in some neighboring towns of Missouri between 1854 and 1861.  

Now, today, we see ultra-conservatives in charge there who appear to want to drain the last ounce of blood from the good citizens there. This letter from a Topeka, Kansas citizen says what I suspect a lot people there are saying about Kansas over the last few years. Her letter appeared in the Capital Journal.com on March 10, 2015 in total here:  

“There was a time in our country when citizens of the deep South didn’t like to admit where they were from. They were ashamed of their education standards and the integrity of their state leaders. They understood that their states couldn’t attract business because of the far-right morals of their leaders.”
“Surely, it is time for our Legislature to use its authority to rein in the ultra-conservative performance of our governor.”
“Gov. Sam Brownback should make decisions based on what is good for all the citizens. His actions shouldn’t manifest any personal beliefs or agendas.”
“I don’t want to be embarrassed to admit I’m from Kansas. Politics shouldn’t be Democratic versus Republican. The actions of our politicians should be based on good judgment versus lunacy, phobias and lies.”  /s/ Janice Supon, Topeka
First, who is Gov. Sam Brownback – let’s take a quick look – this short rundown from Rolling Stone:
Sam Brownback: The 56-year-old, a regular sight on Capitol tours, today happens to be wandering the corridor near his second-floor office. He's holding a coffee mug and sporting one of his signature sweater vests – such pleasingly Capra-esque touches that one wonders if a wardrobe consultant was involved – and when his eyes alight upon an unfamiliar face, he beams and gives the visitor a pleasant nod.

Just a few years ago, Brownback seemed washed up. A devout Catholic who attends mass several times a week, he'd built a following among the Christian right as one of the most socially conservative U.S. senators of the Bush era, but his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 proved an embarrassing folly. Unable to raise money or make a dent in the polls after religious conservatives flocked to Mike Huckabee, Brownback wound up limping from the race before the first votes were even cast in the Iowa caucus.

But apparently, the notion of wielding executive branch power had become appealing. Two years later, he handily won the governorship, part of the class of Republicans elected in 2010 on a Tea Party-driven wave of anti-Obama sentiment.

Once in office, Brownback surprised critics and supporters alike with the fervor of his pursuit of power, pushing what reporter John Gramlich of Stateline described as perhaps the “boldest agenda of any governor in the nation like: (1) gutting spending on social services and education, (2) privatizing the state's Medicaid system, (3) undermining the teacher's union, (4) becoming the only state to entirely abolish funding for the arts, (5) boasting that he would sign any anti-abortion bill that crossed his desk, and – most significantly – (6) pushing through the largest package of tax cuts in Kansas history. His avowed goal is to (7) eliminate the state income tax altogether, a move that many predict will torpedo the budget and engender even more draconian cuts in spending.”

Pretty harsh words and from what I have read all accurate and the blow back has been harsh, too as the news has shown recently. Now Kansas’ latest move or stunt or whatever one chooses to call it has this headline: “Will the Kansas Board of Ed vote to de-professionalize teaching?”

A lot of details from here (NEA.org), in part:  

Kansas educators and parents are speaking out against a dangerous proposal being considered by the state board of education that would remove restrictions on hiring untrained, unlicensed individuals as teachers. The proposal would allow administrators to hire unlicensed individuals for schools that are part of the Coalition of Innovative School Districts. While superintendents insist the required waivers would be used sparingly, there are virtually no limitations on how the waivers could be employed in the proposal currently on the table.

Here are some top concerns the Kansas National Education Association has about the proposal, according to KNEA legislative director Mark Desetti. In the current proposal: *click the NEA link for more good reading to see the dangerous ground for sure.

Check back later or research the Kansas effort on your own … main point: when conservatives get power, they go nuts and can't handle it.

Monday, April 27, 2015

What Price Tag Should We Put on Those Who Protect Our Freedoms

Soldiers at Fort Drum, NY (10th Mountain Division): Heading Back to Afghanistan

Possible Future Scenario Awaits Those Like Them

The current military pension system, in which you are qualified to get a pension after 20 years of service, but none at say 15 to 19 years is probably due for an overhaul. I am open for discussion; not ramrodding it down the military's throat, however. Let me explain:

Such changes must not mean include handing the system over to greedy Wall Street brokers, or to a handful of fancy “money managers,” or to some whiz-bang sort of privatized system that would be vulnerable to another 2008 near total meltdown. Sadly, that is precisely what the GOP-run House Armed Services Committee is seriously considering. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has praised the idea. So, hang on tight...!!!  Here is what recently appeared in a Military Times report in part:
  1. The plan would create some sort of 401(k) style investment accounts for the troops.
  2. The government would offer up to 6 percent of basic pay for troops who contribute their own out-of-pocket money.
  3. Troops would own that investment account regardless of when they leave the military.
  4. It would give troops, say, who reach 12 years of active duty service, some level of a lump-sum “retention bonus” in exchange for a new four-year service commitment (if they were to reenlist) with any final amount in place varying by their branch of service and probably career field specialty.
However, Secy. Carter, in his remarks about any such proposal, did not mention another central and more controversial component: the overall shrinking of the current pension by some 20 percent. Oops…!!! (Guess he forgot that little tidbit).

I profess that getting to a fair way to get allow some retirement benefits to the 83 percent of enlisted personnel who do not stay in the military for 20 years is a good idea, but as they say: "the Devil is always in the the details," and that is what matters most, or at least it should. 

We know from past experience that civilian low-paid workers have trouble putting money in any available 401(k) account. A plan for the military impacting junior enlisted personnel would be a tough nut to crack, too. 

However, I am open-minded, but not to the idea or prospect of having your retirement at the mercy of the stock market — it is simply too risky. Many Americans found that out the hard way in 2008. On the surface in mind it degrades and belittles the time-tested concept of “you protect us and put your life on the line to protect our freedoms and the country will provide for you, except from now on ... well simply do your duty, finish your job, then get out. We don’t care how you survive after discharge or retirement.” Or words to that affect it seems.

Let's also be clear that while this is being sold as a benefit to people in the military, there is a big upside for the government (which the GOP dearly loves): it would ave up to $4.7 billion per year.  

So, again I ask: How much is our freedom worth?

Wouldn't it be nice if the powers that be were talking about expanding retirement benefits to more people in a way that didn't also involve cuts for their duty and sacrifices? I strongly think so.  

Topics related Pensions from DailyKos Library – a good read. 

Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned to this topic – it’s a keeper for sure.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Need More, Not Fewer Guns, and Easier Access: /s/ 2016 GOP Field

If you got 'em, pack 'em, if not, git one and then pack 'em...

My recommendation for the weapon of choice for those candidates...

Good rundown here from Think Progress. By this article it sure seems like this GOP field is working on their “short pee-pee syndrome” with the kind of lingo that follows they are flinging around. To wit:

Republican presidential candidates lining up for 2016 are eager to flaunt their support for the Second Amendment, whether it’s by speaking to pro-gun groups, talking up their own experience with guns, or literally posing with guns.

The latest issue these early GOP presidential contenders are tackling is how far they would extend gun rights and how easy it should be to carry a firearm in public, literally anywhere, anytime, and for any reason.

Expanding where people can carry guns and how — concealed or open — has become a controversial issue between gun owners and groups attempting to put limits on those rights they perceive as absolute.

Pro-gun activists argue that having people carry arms would better protect them from potential shootings, while others cite research showing more guns would lead to more violence.

The NRA is pressing Congress to pass legislation which would allow people to carry their concealed weapons across state lines (in essence make states follow Congressional mandates – neat, isn’t it for the “less government/not more” crowd.”

The NRA is counting on the support of 53 Senate Republicans — including a number of presidential candidates to get that kind of bill passed, and the candidates are eager for the NRA’s support (read: money and endorsements).  

The NRA spent $18.6 million in the 2012 election, an amount that dwarfs that of any gun control group. Not being on the receiving end of that kind of dough could substantially hurt a candidate’s chances of winning and certainly the NRA can’t have any of that, now can they?

More at the story link. Enjoy... a bit scary, but we've gotten used to these tactics, right? Yeah, sure we have. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rightwing Fired Up About "Clinton Cash" Book: Hoax & Hooey Crap

Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash and Backed by Koch Cash 

Give Schweizer a couple of butts to calm him down
(grabbed from ABC News - source unknown)

This headline from Think Progress kinda sets the tone:

Think Progress Report: “Schweizer Admits He Cannot Prove Allegations in Clinton Cash”

As they say, “No shit, Sherlock.” Or maybe like Gomer Pyle: “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”

Either way, Schweizer's own words pretty much say it all:

Schweizer makes clear that he does not intend to present a smoking gun, despite the media speculation. The book relies heavily on timing, stitching together the dates of donations to the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton's speaking fees with actions by the State Department.  He explains that he cannot prove the allegations, leaving that up to investigative journalists and possibly law enforcement.” 

Schweizer: “Short of someone involved coming forward to give sworn testimony, we don't know what might or might not have been said in private conversations, the exact nature of the transition, or why people in power make the decision they do. We cannot ultimately know what goes on in their minds and ultimately provide the links between the money they took and the benefits that subsequently accrued to themselves, their friends, and their associates.”

Well, hell, case closed, then. Or maybe not - we outta maybe perhaps stay tuned. There might be rough roads ahead before November 2016, so caution is advised (smile).

Monday, April 20, 2015

Fund Charter Schools, Get Visa, Green Card, Fast Track to Citizenship

We, The Big Money Foreigners Want to Own American Schools

This story is a couple of years old but still a serious topic worth reviewing and tracking. At the same time, I am sure GOP free market, let it all hang out, trickle down zealots love this sort of stuff.

This is subject is both simple and complex: Help fund an American CHARTER school, get a special Visa, then green card and fast track to U.S. citizenship. What a deal.

(Reuters - Oct 12, 2012) - It's been a turbulent period for charter schools in the United States, with financial analysts raising concerns about their stability and regulators in several states shutting down schools for poor performance.

The volatility has made it tough for start up schools to get financing. But an unlikely source of new capital has emerged to fill the gap: foreign investors. Wealthy individuals from as far away as China, Nigeria, Russia and Australia are spending tens of millions of dollars to build classrooms, libraries, basketball courts and science labs for American charter schools.

1.  In Buffalo, NY, foreign funds paid for the Health Sciences Charter School to renovate a 19th-century orphanage into modern classrooms and computer labs.

2.  In Florence, AZ, overseas investment is expected to finance a sixth campus for the booming chain of American Leadership Academy charter schools.

3.  In FL, state business development officials say foreign investment in charter schools is poised to triple next year (that was 2013) to $90 million.

It is now 2015 – I wonder where we stand now?

How this worksChina example (linked from the above story):

In a conference room in an office building in downtown Shanghai, Jason Lee, literally sells the American dream. (BTW: Who is this Jason Lee? Well, on the day that Reuters spoke with Lee in Shanghai for the story, he was selling an investment in an Idaho gold mine that has been closed for decades but which a U.S. business now wants to reopen. Suddenly, Lee reminds me of a modern-day Flim-Flam Man (same title as the 1967 movie) version of Mordecai Jones).

Lee BTW runs Maslink, a firm that connects cash-hungry American businesses with Chinese investors keen to move to the United States. His company is part of a global cottage industry that has popped up in recent years to profit from a program that allows foreigners who invest in certain small U.S. businesses to get on the fast track to U.S. residency and then citizenship.  

Interest in the program, officially known as the EB-5 Immigrant Investor, is so high that Lee’s Maslink, now has offices Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, and Chongqing, and with plans to expand into two more Chinese cities.

Firms like Maslink, and the U.S. companies that pay them, all promote the EB-5 visa as a quick, easy way to gain legal entry to the United States, and naturally: to make a potential profit in the bargain, and their pitch is very effective.

For example, in 2010, nearly 2,000 would-be immigrants, many from China, applied for EB-5 visas, the most ever in a single year, and that is according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) who oversees the program. The surge has been driven in part by a 20-fold increase in the number of U.S. companies looking to participate.

My bottom line: Foreign investments are okay just like U.S. investments abroad are okay, but somehow I want to draw the line regarding their ownership of the American education system. 

That simply does not tickle my fancy as they say. I think Congress should step in shut down this aspect of the program. Why? We ave enough Corporate greed a lot of other areas -- we do not need it in our schools like this. So, stopping it here and now seems to me like a good place to start.

Thanks for stopping by ... leave a note if you want. Certainly pass this along to others of a like mind.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Fake, False, or Misleading Media Reporting: Dare We Ask Why

Case in Point: This Headline
(Must Read More to Find Out the Real Story)

Backdrop for this Post: I at first blush when I read this headlines thought: “Gosh, the AZ Republic Supports the VA Privatization Move by the Koch's.” Ding… wrong assumption!!

Ding – I would be wrong. However, the headline is very misleading and carefully constructed to force the reader to read the entire article to see what Paul Harvey used to say, “And, now the rest of the story.” (Kinda like if it bleeds, then it leads)…

This post continues that I posted earlier about the Koch brothers sponsoring a move to privatize the VA while waving the red, white, blue like they are the only patriots in the country. 

My focus for this post is long – so bear with me - I think this is a critically important issue. It comes from remarks JEB Bush made while speaking at a Colorado Springs IHOP about this subject, wherein he said, in part: “This is where I think empowering people with the equivalent of a voucher that gives you the same economic benefit of receiving care inside of a clinic or a hospital.” (As noted, Bush previously called for a system change saying he was all in on the voucher thing.

What a coincidence because the Koch brothers are ALSO in on “the voucher thing,” too as we are finding out. But what does it all mean? I mean, what is their purpose?

Back in February, a Koch-funded organization calling themselves Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) released a report calling for extreme policy changes including privatization and tougher enrollment standards that if implemented under their scheme would make one-fifth of future veterans ineligible for care at any VA - oops.

Those radical policy proposals are widely unpopular with veteran groups like the American Legion and Paralyzed Veterans of America because they see and know what Bush doesn’t know: that privatizing their care does nothing to “empower” them – not one bit.

If Mr. Bush is smart and at this stage on this issue it appears he is not so bright, then he would check his facts before cashing in is/potential Koch check. JEB Bush it appears has fallen in line with no only the Kochs on this but right along side Rubio, Rand Paul, and a ton of many other Republicans.

Some of the proposed “reforms /changes are here from this fine article from USA TODAY that I have used for this posting. It is quite long but very detailed discussing the reform measure, that if enacted would affect some 22 million Veterans dramatically and especially about 8.5 million already enrolled with the VA for their care. Some of the impact:

•  Health care should be re-prioritized to focus on veterans with service-connected disabilities and specialized needs. Patients already in the VA medical system would retain their access and eligibility while gaining new options.  

•  All enrolled veterans would be able to continue using VA health facilities or shift to subsidized care through private providers. The government would pay a percentage of medical costs via insurance programs, with coverage levels determined by each veteran's eligibility status. (The VA already provides benefits based on tiered eligibility calculations.

•  Future veterans and those not already enrolled in VA health care would be required to enter a new VA insurance system with varying levels of coverage, and NOT all would qualify for subsidies.

•  Nearly one-fifth of future veterans — those in the lowest VA benefit levels (Priorities 7 and 8) would not be eligible under the new system at all.  

•  About 1.6 million patients now are rated in those two categories, but their benefits would be grandfathered. 

• The Veterans Health Administration, with 275,000 employees, would be divided. Half of it would morph into a non-profit government corporation that provides medical care in competition with private providers. The other half would oversee payments, or insurance coverage, for medical care on behalf of veterans using non-VA services.

By way of background, the VA today has the VA has 150 hospitals nationwide and about 820 clinics. The reform package also calls for the closure of inefficient medical centers and other facilities, similar to the shutdown of military installations under the controversial Base Realignment and Closure Act of 1990.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald could not attend the summit, but he issued a statement opposing the proposal, saying: “Unfortunately, many of today's proposals advocate 'contracting out' a sacred mission to care for those who have borne the battle *Lincoln’s words. There is an important role for outside care in the veteran health model to supplement VA's own care, but that role should not diminish or obscure the importance of VA's health care system. Reforming VA health care cannot be achieved by dismantling it and preventing veterans from receiving the specialized care and services that can only be provided by VA.”

Noteworthy is what Sen. John McCain described the task force report as “pretty radical stuff” but said he endorses the basic tenets. He rejected Secretary McDonald's criticism, saying in part: “What he is doing is binding the veterans only to VA health care and that is wrong (because) . bureaucratically, they are trying to circumvent the intent of the law.”

(Note: During a Q&A session, McCain was interrupted by a heckler who yelled, “Hey, John, how many lives could you have saved in Phoenix if ...?” – then McCain interrupted the man, which the CVA later identified as an Arizona resident, calling him a “jerk and declaring he would match his service for veterans to anyone else.” (So, Vets are jerks for asking questions.) What a deal.

Dr. Bill Frist (TN), the former GOP Senate majority leader and now a co-chair of the task force, said the VA has become an outdated organization that evolved by reacting to past problems rather than as a result of planning. He envisions the summit proposals as a new system that focuses on patient needs with accountability, flexibility, efficiency and cost controls saying in part: “Incremental change simply will not fix the system. We've got to change. ... It's all about modernization.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told summit participants the VA “is simply buckling under the weight of its own bureaucracy, and that repairing the medical system for America's veterans is a measure of our honor as a society because we have an obligation to serve them with the same devotion they have served us – we owe it to them, and this system simply cannot provide it.”

The American Legion made clear in a statement Thursday that it would not back the plan, saying it opposes privatization and vouchers as a long-term solution. Additionally, no members of Congress have yet to sign up as sponsor of any reform bill thus far.

It is not immediately clear whether such a dramatic overhaul stands any chance of congressional passage, let alone endorsement from President Obama.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has endorsed the basic tenets advocated by the task force, saying: “Let's not be afraid to take the traditions of the past — why we created it — and apply them to a changing future.”

A backlash from some Veteran organizations, some lawmakers, some federal employee unions, and other groups is expected. They all basically argue that the proposed “Vets Care Choice Program” (VCCP, I guess it would be called) program would: (1) explode costs, (2) reduce benefits for some veterans, (3) privatize a system that the government should run and in fact since George Washington was CINC and said we must take care of our wounded soldiers, and (4) could also have coverage options that would bewilder elderly veterans and those with brain injuries, and PTSD.

The Task Force also included: former Rep. Jim Marshall, a Georgia Democrat and Purple Heart recipient, who had served as one of four co-chairmen in developing Fixing Veterans Health Care, then Frist, a lung surgeon; Dr. Michael Kussman, former VA under secretary for health; Avik Roy, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute's Center for Medical Progress (and BTW: a former Romney adviser); and  Sam Foote, the Phoenix veterans hospital physician who exposed health care failings before his retirement last year. 

The panel also stressed that the government needs to address dramatic declines projected in the veteran population — falling from 24 million in 2006 to an estimated 16 million by 2029.

Also, the report predicts that combined reforms would be revenue-neutral, (huge laugh here) though authors acknowledged the calculation is murky because the Veterans Health Administration failed to provide critical data on expenditures, or comparative costs for private and VA medical care.

The issue of VA shutdowns and closures: Very likely will generate local opposition and political fallout, but the report said closures would save money and eliminate inefficiencies, allowing for improved health care overall (odd: GOP-run things like this always worry about costs – except when they drag us into the next war).

About focus on cost: “How much is our freedoms worth?”

What has Congress done since the flap erupted? They passed the bipartisan Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act in 2014, which was signed into law. It set aside $16.3 billion to hire more caregivers and allow stonewalled patients to obtain private care, which is a good idea if the local VA are full or not able to offer the treatment – that is common sense reform – not total abandonment and handover to some Wall Street broker or Koch-supported entity.

However, some still say that piecemeal changes will not change the VA – I say: Why not – make the changes needed and hands off thing that work. 

GOP Rep. and Chairman Jeff Miller of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee (R-FL) said amid “the biggest scandal in VA history the department is struggling to change under congressional oversight, and if we don't take the opportunity to fix this very broken health care system today, then we may never get the opportunity again.” (That is scare tactics; not leadership, Mr. Miller).

Miller went on to devote much of his address to the VA's failure to fire any employees to date in connection with the crisis over delayed care and falsified appointment data, adding: “People are still asking the question: 'Where is the accountability?'” (He is right, but are firing needed)?

The report's summary said medical efficiency and care diminished even as the VA budget grew by $91 billion from 2006 to 2014, and as staffing increased by more than 100,000 despite a declining population of U.S. veterans.

And, so it begins. Big money at work for what? The betterment of the public’s best interests, or their bottom line? The answer I believe is self-evident.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Koch's "Wet Dream" View for America: Privatize It All — Even the VA

Washington Post Coverage

Koch-funded "Shadow Group" Behind the Move
(Concerned Veterans for America - CVA)

Palin Supports the Idea
(so, it must be a good deal, right)

The idea of privatizing the VA has been brewing for some time in GOP-conservative circles - watch this short clip and see for yourself.

This background here from Koch facts. It makes a good reference, so keep it handy with a bookmark - I have.

In all honesty, what the hell is it with the Koch brothers about buying and owning America? What a huge ego trip those two are on ... very disturbing and now a move on the VA.

Yes, the VA has issues, but those are leadership issues and supervision problems not medical problems per se ... overall Vet care is good, quite good in many places in fact. Just ask the Vets. Just don't ask FOX, Talk Radio, Palin, or the Koch brothers... you won't like their answers.

As retired Marine (VN-era infantry NCO and officer) I can say without hesitation, privatizing the VA wold be a huge huge mistake for a thousand reasons. Again, just ask the Vets like here and here.