VA Secretary General Shinseki and President Obama

Time To Stop Blaming The Wrong People For The VA Scandal

VA Secretary General Shinseki and President Obama
VA Secretary General Shinseki and President Obama

When Senator Bernie Sanders proposed a bill to substantially improve the quality of life for America’s heroes, our veterans, his intentions were to vastly enhance care and education. On February 27, 2014: A massive veterans legislative package that would have expanded a host of post-military benefits was sidelined after Senate Democratic backers failed to find enough support among their Republican colleagues.  This impressive and comprehensive bill rectified so many of the ills at the Veterans Administration. I encourage everyone to glance at the bill and then ask the journalists why is this not THE REAL ISSUE?

The GOP, the self-appointed party of patriots, claimed President Obama’s West Point Commencement address was received with tepid approval. Why? Because he spoke the truth? “America’s costliest mistakes have stemmed not from restraint but from rushing to armed adventures without thinking through the consequences, without building international support and legitimacy for our action, without leveling with the American people about the sacrifice required.”  Imagine if the address given by George W. Bush at that very same place in 2002 was as insightful, logical and considerate to the soldiers he stood before, many of them would not have become casualties of his poorly-planned wars.

The GOP Senators Who Never Side With Veterans
The GOP Senators Who Never Side With Veterans

Senator John McCain would entangle our military in dozens of wars if he had his way. Famous for being a POW, he has been voting repeatedly against his fellow veterans for years denying the needed funding for benefits. He was among the Republicans who voted against the measure. He and his fellow Arizona Republican, Senator Jeff Flake have some serious soul-searching to do after laying the blame on Secretary of the VA Shinseki and the Obama Administration.

Does anyone else see this pattern: the GOP votes against funding (embassy security and Veterans’ care) and an inevitable crisis ensues? Is everyone too distracted by these scandals to forget that Koch Industries and BP (to name a few) are given a pass to pollute while the far right science-deniers focus on  Vice President Gore’s audacity to live in a nice home? Perhaps if the Chris Matthews and Chuck Todds of the MSM would stop reading from Frank Luntz’s daily manifestos, the real villains would be held to account for the problems they create.

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Different Standards Apply To Democratic Administrations

The Current Strategy
The Current GOP Strategy

The party that decries the entire concept of government is hardly suited to take the reins and lead a nation, even when they inherit a budget surplus and an economy that’s sound and prosperous.  After the Supreme Court decided in favor of the Republican Party in Bush v Gore , Americans became tolerant of subpar governance and Republicans were given a pass on acting ethically and responsibly. Democrats, since Reagan, are held to a higher standard and the administrations of Democrats are far more superior.  No longer liberal, the conservative-owned media seems to be far more critical of any Democratic mistakes.  With headlines like the IRS Scandal, Fast and Furious and Benghazi, the media literally manufactured scandalous outrage over trivia.

In 2001, those in charge of national security ignored the warning signs of an imminent attack, thereby altering the course of history in ways never imagined.  In retrospect, we know Congress and the American people were duped into a conflict in Iraq while futilely looking for Bin Laden in Afghanistan. This has been the longest period of war our military has experienced and paltry planning and funding for veterans has made so many of our heroes suffer due to George W. Bush’s hubris. The number of veterans doubled after 9/11, and in this alternate GOP Universe, Bush and Cheney were not held to account.  Long gone are the days when the terrorists attacked Americans and we united as a country to fight them.  While President Obama is in office and Americans are killed, the Republicans practically unite behind the terrorists and blame the President.  The numerous embassy attacks that occurred on Reagan and GWB’s presidencies were far worse than the single attack on our Benghazi, Libya consulate. Scandals like Iran-Contra, outing a covert CIA agent and the malicious swift boating of military heroes were far more egregious. The conditions at Walter Reed medical center for veterans were appalling, but the story received less coverage in six weeks than the Shinseki probe received in one week.

The Republicans have had a sordid history of fiscal mismanagement and crisis while focusing on passing prohibitive laws discriminating against women, minorities and the LGBT community.  The main legislative accomplishments of the GOP, in recent years, are laws that promote  a state-sanctioned religion while rescinding the rights of women to choose what they do with their own bodies.  The Great Depression and the recent recession just happened to occur right after taxes on the highest income earners were at their lowest points in history.  But history is something the anti-education Republican Party denies, distorts and defunds, while rewriting history to reflect their revisionist lies.

GOP vs. Democratic Tax Policies  (Courtesy Washington Post)
GOP vs. Democratic Tax Policies
(Courtesy Washington Post)

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, and America’s history of financial crises are generally caused by lack of fiscal responsibility.  The culprit: Republican tax cuts for the wealthy lead to sharp economic downturns.  When America had it’s highest taxes on the wealthy during the Eisenhower Administration (90% rate)  we enjoyed unprecedented growth and prosperity.  Of course that was when the GOP had a sense of true fiscal conservatism and responsibility, where their platform would be virtually unrecognizable.  Reagan’s voodoo economics and Bush II embroiling the nation in two wars off the books has created the worst economic conditions, and when President Obama took office, conditions were dreadful.  Seldom does the first black president receive kudos for turning the financial health of this country around.  Anytime the White House lists an accomplishment, the right accuses the administration of “cooking the books,” no matter what the non-partisan CBO has concluded. The right wing media has already declared a landslide victory for Republicans in the 2014 midterms, in order to discourage voter turnout.  The only thing the GOP has learned from studying the history of elections is the fewer the number of total voters, the better the chances one of their sub par candidates will emerge victorious.  Let’s get out and vote America, it is far too important to sit this one out.

General Shinseki Should Not Resign

The Media Won’t Tell The Truth About Veteran’s Care

VA Secretary General Shinseki Shoukd Not Retire
VA Secretary General Shinseki Should Not Retire

General Eric K. Shinseki, a decorated four star general is currently in charge of a very over stressed Veterans’ Administration.  He is taking all the heat for the failure of VA Hospitals around the country. I was confused why Obama’s former adviser on environmental matters and CNN pundit, Van Jones would tweet,  If I were Shinseki, I would… get my resume in very good shape.  Why would a Democrat bash a man mercilessly hampered by the GOP’s efforts to sabotage everything Obama attempts?  Why would he buy into this charade parroted by media talking heads and surrender to the Right?  

Like so many pundits, Van Jones must have forgotten recent history, a tactic of Bush apologists.  Shinseki tried, mostly in vain,  to encourage the Bush Administration to act responsibly.  In 2003, General Shinseki warned the Bush Administration that victory in Iraq would require more troops than were being deployed for the invasion. Not only was his original assessment vindicated when President Bush announced the Surge in 2007, he warned there was a shortage of doctors and medical personnel in the VA that rendered the system incredibly ill-prepared for conflicts of that magnitude.  For instance, out of  84,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by VA, only half, about 42,000, had their disability claim approved by VA. 

Bush’s political appointees at the VA actively fought against mental health claims. His appointees also obstructed scientific research into the causes of Gulf War illnesses dating back 18 years to Operation Desert Storm and opposed medical research on treatment for 210,000 of those veterans.   In May 2007, Bush threatened to veto legislation that sought a 10 percent—$3.2 billion—increase, calling it too expensive. Bush proposed a 2 percent increase, far below what lawmakers and VA officials said was needed to treat a huge increase in traumatic brain injury and PTSD cases.  So that would certainly account for a short-staffed VA. Bush asserted he doubled the funding for the VA, but he failed to disclose the number of veterans seeking VA healthcare had doubled, from 2.7 million to 5.5 million!

When Bush broke his silence this past March, he referred to the brain injury as simply Post-Traumatic Stress, omitting  “Disorder” to minimize the severity of the condition. The refusal of the medicaid expansion continues to hurt vets in Red States where spiteful GOP governors choose to deny coverage for so many in need.  There are over 5,000,000 Americans who won’t get much-needed care, and roughly a quarter of a million are our war veterans.  If Congress allocated enough money to the care of our veterans they created with 13 years of war, this problem would not even exist. Ignoring veterans and needy Americans in favor of  the enrichment of corporations and millionaires is a tragic blemish on our history.  Support the troops doesn’t mean just support the WAR.  It means take care of our brave veterans for the rest of their lives, no matter what the cost. Secretary Shinseki is well-suited to fix these problems, but he needs the money to do it.

Republicans Complain But Never Accept Blame

The media is flooded with stories about Benghazi, the deficit and apathy towards the care of veterans.  The GOP seems to lay all the blame at the foot of the Obama Administration. The Right is quick to accuse the current administration for the very problems they caused, while the media parrots these GOP-talking points, as if they warrant any merit.  The Republicans sabotage all facets of government,  so they can be the eventual overlords of the rubble and the commanders of the aftermath.

The 112th Congress cared little to protect American diplomats who were out in the trenches, serving our international interests.   House Republicans voted to cut nearly $300 million from the U.S. embassy security budget. But the confusion surrounding the circumstances of the attack became the cry of outrage and incompetence when all along, the GOP was precisely at fault for leaving our diplomats vulnerable.   One Utah Republican boasted, “of course we cut funding for embassy security,” but hold the administration of President Obama accountable for the incident.  No one seems to mention this aspect, but we do know that we are on the EIGHTH Benghazi Hearing, with no possibility of exposing the true culprits.

Republicans Are Never Responsible For The Debt

The deficit is always a red meat issue Republicans seem to remember only when a Democrat occupies The White House. Forty Republican Senators vetoed a $1 billion jobs bill that would have helped our unemployed veterans. Yet this same party, who dominate the 113th Congress, want to ram a bill through the House, where $310 billion would be lost by extending more tax cuts to the rich. Of course, they have offered no way to pay for these superfluous gifts to the filthy rich.

The top of every newscast is laden with the incompetence of General Shinseki, the Secretary of the VA, and the Veterans Administration’s failings.  Back in February, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sponsored a bill that would have allowed for COLA (Cost of Living Adjustments) and that would enrich health, education and job-training programs for the nation’s 22 million veterans.  56 Senators voted in favor of the measure, yet 41 pernicious Republicans vetoed, so the bill went down.  Maybe the VA is operating without the proper funding needed to care for our wounded warriors, so the likelihood of mismanagement is much greater. These men and women, many who served in the Iraq War (a conflict based on lies of the Bush Administration), are treated like an afterthought when they should be treated like royalty.

We must look at who allocate the funds and what they deem important. Never do they approve bills to help veterans, but instead a plethora of religiously motivated legislation that hurt the poor, minorities, children, elderly and LGBT Americans. The latest grotesquely contorted marching order out of RNC headquarters is how government can’t run anything, like the single-payer VA, so how can it run Obamacare? They distort the truth like a fun-house mirror by pushing the idea that the ACA is government-run healthcare, not the regulation of private insurance companies which is the basis of Obamacare. They have contorted the President’s efforts to keep insurance companies from behaving in a manner that isn’t grossly unethical and cruel to something as horrific as slavery.

Canada has a law preventing lying in broadcasting while it seems their neighbor to the south offers more protection for liars than truth-tellers.  It’s disgraceful how Republicans abuse those with less power and influence while blaming the people who are fighting for the marginalized.  The media is not liberal.  The media is run by conservative-owned sociopaths with an aversion to facts and honesty.

 

SCOTUS Is Fighting To Make America A Christian Theocracy

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Hard to tell the difference between Christian Fundamentalism and Radical Islam.

Thomas Jefferson said, Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. In 1983, (Marsh v Chambers) the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the practice of beginning a legislative session with a prayer delivered by a publicly funded chaplain. This set an unfortunate precedent for the current SCOTUS deemed most conservative in years and they ruled, once again, in favor of sectarian prayer (in a government setting) in this week’s Town of Greece v Galloway decision. When an Alabama judge recently asserted the First Amendment only applies to Christianity, the metamorphosis of our government from a non-secular democracy into a theocracy is now a reality.

Five of the nine Supreme Court Justices were appointed by Reagan or one of the Bushes, and there is definitely a major shift to the right on most of their decisions. Scalia and Alito are essentially evangelical Catholics. Kennedy, Thomas and Roberts are not as vocal about their belief in the supernatural but are still very sympathetic to the whims of the religious right. It’s frightening to think the Republican Party is SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT certain of their belief in “the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.” It’s chilling that a group of people so committed to faith over science also wield such enormous power.

When the Supreme Court essentially appointed George W. Bush, it installed the first true Seven Mountains Dominionist in the White House. In 2003, while trying to form a “Coalition of the Willing” (to help shoulder the burden of Iraqi occupation), Bush told then French Premier Jacques Chirac,

Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”

Chirac, blown away by the mind-numbingly superficial and fantastical beliefs of the U.S. President, wanted no part of a Biblical war.

The Corporatist Supreme Court
The Corporatist Supreme Court

When the five conservative justices ruled in favor of unlimited anonymous donations (Citizens United and McCutcheon), the activist agenda of these corporatist justices erased any question of whom these men truly serve: The Koch Brothers and their Heritage Foundation underlings. Heritage asserts the Christian faith is under attack, and they’ve furtively ensconced their religion into local governments, Red State by Red State.

In her dissent of the recent Town of Greece v Galloway, Justice Elana Kagan said, “…No one can fairly read the prayers from Greece’s Town meetings as anything other than explicitly Chris­tian—constantly and exclusively so. From the time Greece established its prayer practice in 1999 until litigation loomed nine years later, all of its monthly chaplains were Christian clergy.”  If private citizens of a town are not Christian, they have no choice but to participate in prayers or face undue scrutiny from their fellow citizens.

It is clear, Christian fundamentalists will fight longer and harder, with better organization and fervor than any other group.  With limitless money, they are going after legal abortion, access to contraceptives and gay marriage.  They insist upon the teaching of Creationism as science, and think it should get equal footing in our children’s schools. They are fighting on all fronts to make America resemble the “Great Satan,” Iran.  Only difference, this theocracy may soon be ruled by the Draconian Old Testament.

Black Republicans Are Betraying Their Own Race

We’ve heard the Republican Party wants to re-brand itself to appeal to all demographics, especially Black and Latino voters.  In the 113th Congress, there is one black Republican, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) who was appointed to fill Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint’s seat.  One might call him a token Republican. By definition, tokenism is the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce.   When your party is affiliated with semi-white-supremacist groups like the Heritage Foundation, the TeaParty and the NRA, supporters from minority groups will be rare, understandably.  The party will thus make a strong effort to use these token Republicans by denouncing the benefits of programs targeted to many of their own racial group.

Of course minority Republicans like Senator Tim Scott will deny he is used as a mouthpiece for pet conservative causes: cutting public assistance, lowering taxes on the rich, marriage equality and immigration.   Naturally, Scott uses the racist dog whistle of individual responsibility adopted by the Ayn Rand crowd like Paul Ryan who proclaims “inner-city” (code for Black) males are content to NEVER look for a job.  This is a disgustingly racist and false statement that Scott parrots when doing softball interviews with Greta Van Susteren.  Scott is also vehemently against a woman’s right to choose, and when that woman is forced to have her baby, he is very much in favor of cutting public assistance programs like SNAP and Head Start.  Since African Americans are disproportionately poor, Scott is undoubtedly not in favor of giving those folks a hand up.  He harbors the opinion that dependence on government is akin to slavery.  As if there was any question of his denial of the obvious racism in the South, he was an honorary chairman for one of the re-election bids by the late political icon Senator Strom Thurmond, the staunchest opponent of integration there ever was.  He voted to raise taxes on the lowest income-earners while extending tax cuts for the super wealthy.

Another rising star of the GOP, who covers the female and black demographic,  is Saratoga Springs, Utah Mayor, Mia Love.  Mia actually claimed to be an anchor baby because, in her words; “My parents have always told me I was a miracle and our family’s ticket to America.” Her Haitian parents came to America with “$10 in their pockets,” so did they get by without any government help? Ironically, she has aligned her views with other anti-Fourteenth amendment (birthright citizenship) Republicans. In an attempt to ingratiate herself as a true token, she converted to the LDS faith, which has an unbelievable history of intolerance and degradation of black people. When threatened with tax exempt status in 1978, the Mormon Church decided to change their 130 year old thinking that black people are “cursed”and admit minorities into their church.

Mia Love, GOP House Candidate in 2014
Mia Love, GOP House Candidate in 2014

Dr. Ben Carson, a noted neurosurgeon and darling of the Republican party because of his ferocious homophobia, is also guilty of denouncing his own upbringing. Like Tim Scott, Carson derides folks who need support from the government. “Nobody is starving on the streets. We’ve always taken care of them,” Carson said. “We take care of our own; we always have. It is not the government’s responsibility.” Except Carson was a beneficiary of government assistance and is a staunch opponent of President Obama’s every policy, especially insuring poor people.   Carson doesn’t acknowledge the higher rates of poverty among African American children.

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Dr. Ben Carson

Perhaps the most notorious of Black Republicans is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The title of Justice in this case is quite ironic. If I were to expound on his race betrayal, this article would be far too long. Find any minority Republican and you’ll see a person who has turned their backs on the institutionalized disadvantages inherent in our society.