Archive for army

The Perfect VA Secretary Replacement For Shinseki

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VA Veteran's Administration

Okay, there's a big job opening now in the Washington area -- a cabinet post. It's the position of running the Department of Veterans Affairs.

There's probably not a less desirable position right now as the scandals and systemic problems have blown wide open. There's trouble in this most important Veterans division and it's not going to be solved by the normal political appointment to someone who's been faithful to the president and gets tabbed onto the cabinet to fulfill a political favor.

This time it's different. Whoever takes this job is most likely going to fail. At best, he or she will be under such scrutiny that they'll be tested beyond most mortal breaking points.

Let's face it, the VA is on life support. Without a heart transplant, the patient will never recover.

So what's a president to do? Fortunately President Obama is getting a lot of suggestions. Here are the top five, according to a report from The Hill: (abridged)

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal who was forced to resign from his position as a top commander in Afghanistan [because he couldn't control his personal staff], Retired Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli who served in the Obama administration as the former vice chief for the Army, Retired Admiral Michael Mullen who chaired the Joint Chiefs of Staff in both the Bush and Obama administrations and finally, Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) who is the highest-ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress.

All of these folks are serious contenders to replace VA Secretary General Shinseki. And all of them are WRONG.

First off, the problems with the department are not military. They are organizational. They require a man or woman who can handle the demands of building a corporate structure from the ground up. The new leader doesn't need to know how to handle a weapon or understand the horrors of war. They need to understand a monetary bottom line and hospital administration. We saw what a stellar job General Shinseki did during his stint. He may have been a terrific military general and leader, but he didn't have a scintilla of skills in hospital administration. He was clueless as are the other military leaders on this list. So strike off McChrystal, Chiarelli and Mullen. Brave military personnel, sure. But knowing how to build a hospital's cost-effective flow chart, not so much.

That leaves Reed and Walz. Start with Reed. A lawyer, he might be able to see some of the issues but again, this isn't a legal problem, it's structural. And even more important, the control of the Senate is in the balance this year. No reason for another Democratic-held senate seat to be put in play. So Reed's out.

Finally that gives us Walz. He's a good guy, a military background capping out at sergeant. Hardly admiral or general, but again, rank isn't the issue here. This is a hospital and health care problem. When Walz wasn't in the army, he was teaching history. Good for him. And good for us. But not good for the job at hand.

So where should Obama turn? Why to the Republicans, of course. As this is a thankless job and there's really no one outside of the political realm with the skill set to handle it, there are two choices. One is grab a hospital administrator from a flourishing medical organization or... wait for it-- pick a sitting GOP senator. Even one not up for reelection this year. Put their seat into play to increase the chances for the Democrats to keep control over the Senate.

Here are a few names --Roy Blunt. Maybe take him out of the Senate and his state's Democratic Governor, Jay Nixon will appoint a Democrat there. Or how about a lady like Kelly Ayotte? Maybe this whole thing needs a woman's touch. And coming from New Hampshire, with a Democratic Governor, she could be replaced with a Democrat. Certainly John McCain and Lindsay Graham would be losing their shadow, but if it's for the good of the country they could never vote against her. The same could be said for Senator John Boozman from Arkansas or Mark Kirk from Illinois. Both their states have a Democratic governor.

Obama should see this opening as a legacy opportunity. He can save the back half of his second term if the Senate stays blue. The VA isn't going to be fixed over night, but with a Republican in the position of having to fix things, it's never going to work and yet the GOP won't be able to stymie any legit chances to make changes, even if it's going to cost money. Remember, 44 senate Republicans voted against increasing the VA's budget.  So this becomes a win-win for Democrats and more importantly, for our brave veterans.

Hopefully Obama and his advisers are listening.

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ALL Is Okay in Oklahoma

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Oklahoma Air Force BaseYou know how some people see the glass as half empty while others see it as full. Well, there's a universal solution to this age old dilemma. Don't see the glass at all. Such is the case in the Sooner State, Oklahoma.

Mary Fallon is the governor of one of four hold-out states, firmly against recognizing same sex marriage in the military. She even points out that it's the law in her state that same sex marriages are prohibited, so she feels she's in the right there.  Okay, I can see her dilemma. State vs. Federal. There's definitely a difference of opinion. But in this case, the military, including the National Guard falls under a larger umbrella of the Federal Government. Oh, the National Guard may be state controlled, but it's final orders must be approved by the Federal Department of Defense. Just ask all of those guardsmen and women who are serving over in Afghanistan right now. Their states didn't call them up, the U.S. did.

Despite a reprimand from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expounding the military rules now fully accept and acknowledge same sex marriages, the individual states can't discriminate against them and must let all military, including the national guard, have full access to all military services and benefits. Anything less would be discrimination.

This didn't fall on deaf ears in Governor Fallon's state, which BTW is home to six military bases (including two Coast Guard - yup, in this land-locked state).

Sister, er, Governor Mary F's totally against discrimination. So she took immediate action. She's not going to single out same sex marriages and legal civil unions. She's going to restrict state services to ALL marriages, straight or gay. So now, if you're stationed in Oklahoma, and have a legal  marriage or civil union, NO SERVICES by the state will be provided for you or your family. The governor has spoken. There will be no discrimination in her state. If you're married to anyone of any gender, you're out of luck. Single soldiers don't have to worry. They can still utilize state facilities under their military identification.

You gotta hand it to Marriage-minded Mary. In her spite of being told what to do against her will, she's not only lopped off her nose but also her entire head. She's a total moron. Here's how the wonderfully apoplectic Rachel Maddow summed it all up.

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How The GOP Is Turning It's Back On Our Military?

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statue of liberty

On the statue of Liberty, poetess Emma Lazarus' words are engraved:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

These are the words that greeted immigrants since it was officially dedicated October 28, 1886. Just look at those words. Republicans, how can you forget the meaning? And it's not just immigrants who are the tired, poor, huddled masses. They're not the only ones who are homeless and tempest-tossed. Did you ever hear of U.S. MILITARY VETERANS?

For years, if you played a game of word association, when you heard the word Republican, the first word to come to mind -- military. Republicans never saw a war they didn't like, or prosper from. Yet to fight a war it takes soldiers. The GOP adores them while they're serving in uniform, but turn their backs when they've finish their tours of duty. They're discarded like a used, snot-filled tissue.

Veracity Stew:

Nearly each and every day we hear about scores of them who end their own lives due to their inability to bear the pressures of daily living when once they endured the unspeakable horrors of war. Aged, infirm, homeless, mentally unbalanced, tired, poor, and hungry, these wounded warriors –these veterans of our armed forces– have more than earned each and every citizen’s unconditional love and support. But from their fellow citizens who make up the Republican Party, they have received nothing but empty platitudes, the back of a hand, and disdainful looks of contempt.

The Republicans are working fast and furiously, not for anything important, but for destruction of our fabric, the poor and middle class. The SNAP food stamp program is under attack, with the GOP trying to cut more and more money from this "assistance" program. Well, guess who's among those "freebie grabbers?" There's over 900,000 veterans who risk going hungry if the GOP’s draconian cuts to the SNAP (food stamp) program are allowed to go into effect.

For a party that should stand for something more than a void of ideas and hypocrisy, they should be ashamed of  themselves. They hate immigrants for the harm they claim they're doing this country and the economy. GOP, you don't deserve to call yourselves Americans if that's how you feel.

The American way is to provide opportunities for individuals to earn and achieve while living in peace and free from undue oppression. We have a heart. We care for our neighbor. We believe in raising ourselves up with the carrot of  hard work will pay off with success motivating us. But we also know that when our country calls upon us, we serve. We do our best. Some even make the greatest sacrifice, our lives.

You've made it so dying for your country is kinder than coming home and facing the shelter-less, un-cared for, invisible, starving life. The rich Republicans that run and dictate policy in Washington might be well served if they went along with the Tin Man to Oz and found a heart. There's a huge void where that ticker belongs.

Let's give a helping hand to those less fortunate. Those Iraq and Afghanistan returning veteran's who along with the others sadly qualify for help. They deserve and have earned better than an crumbling bridge to live under after giving their all for the war effort.

You caused these wars. Now you have to live up to your responsibilities to care for those who fought them -- the wounded, ill, or mentally challenged. Not everyone comes home a healthy hero, but all of them are heroes. They need to be treated that way.

So let's take a look at who's holding back their aid-- highest ranking House Republicans:

House Speaker Boehner, you served all of 8 WEEKS in the military

House Majority Leader Cantor, you served 0 WEEKS in the military

House Whip Kevin McCarthy you served 0 WEEKS in the military

Chairman of the House Republican Caucus, Cathy Rodgers, you served 0 WEEKS in the military

Republican Policy Committee Chairman James Lankford, you served 0 WEEKS in the military

So there you have the Republican House leadership. These are the people who need to understand military needs. From looking at their service records, they don't have the qualifications. And to see them pushing cuts to SNAP and the 900,000+ military men and women is shameful.

It's about time someone on the GOP side in the House, someone with experience, shakes things up and starts leading, not just flapping their gums for a hopeful re-election. Time to support all our destitute. Provide medical care, food and rehabilitation. Not taking42 votes on repealing the ACA and zero for helping our veterans.

The Statue of Liberty, when closed under the Republican government shutdown, wept. Lady Liberty was brought to tears, not over lack of funding for parks, but for all of her subjects which have served her so well. Boehner and Cantor, time to raise a large hanky, let Ms. Liberty blow her nose, dry her tears, and regain her pride once again. Stop your obstructionism.

Veterans: you made them. You broke the. Now fix them.

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Can Time(lapse) Heal Every Wound?

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military

The military serve us 24/7/365 all across the world. Their's is a thankless task. When things are going well, we hardly know they are there. And when things go badly anywhere in the world, they're called upon to make sure that we as a nation are kept safe.

For doing such a life-threatening task, we should, at the very least lavish them with praise and thanks. Not that they're looking for it. But it's deserved.

Way too often we hear of the results of this constant stress that these brave souls endure and in many too many cases, the aftermath of those who crack. The human soul is fragile, and sometimes individuals crack or break. Whether this ends up being reported as an on base shooting, a suicide, a sexual attack or most commonly substance abuse, we can't desert them. We can't just turn our backs. They need support. Our support.

Returning vets are promised and need medical care, mental health counselling, reintegration therapy and understanding. Sadly our government hasn't kept up with that. Imagine we're the country with drones and satellite technology, but we still have a bulk of our returning vets records on hand prepared forms. The computerization of veterans benefits and payments lags an estimated 18 months behind. A vet returns and it's a year and a half before they are up to speed on their post release care, therapy, and promised benefits.

It's shameful.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a count on a January night in 2012, there were 62,619 Veterans who were homeless. This is just plain wrong.

Numbers of those returning with mental, emotional or substance dependency issues dwarf those numbers. From the National Institute of Health (NIH)

Alcohol abuse is the most prevalent problem and one which poses a significant health risk. A study of Army soldiers screened 3 to 4 months after returning from deployment to Iraq showed that 27 percent met criteria for alcohol abuse and were at increased risk for related harmful behaviors (e.g., drinking and driving, using illicit drugs).

Mental illness among military personnel is also a major concern. In another study of returning soldiers, clinicians identified 20 percent of active and 42 percent of reserve component soldiers as requiring mental health treatment.

So while Paul Ryan and his GOP budget cutters try to pare back the aid given to the military, think about how much we rely on our soldiers, and how little we really give them after we've taken four years from them in life altering stress. They serve for us. They volunteer. Let's volunteer back and help them out. Support more money for returning troops. Support Veterans programs.

Here's a feel good sample of what can happen when you truly do support our returning heroes:

Tell  me he doesn't resemble Mark Walberg!

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Who Put The Pearl In Pearl Harbor

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USS Arizona

When I first visited Hawaii years ago, I had to go to Pearl Harbor. There was something special about coming from Massachusetts and just being on the island. But out of respect for my father, a veteran of both WWII and Korea, I was drawn to the military historical site. This was where the sneak attack launched the 'great war'. There was something special about the camaraderie and bonds that WWII forged. I can remember as a kid how my father got together every other week with his Army buddies. It was informal at best, but it was a must. Nothing but Christmas or Easter could change this friendly rendezvous. They talked about their escapades and their exploits. Never the death. Never the destruction. Never with regrets. They were proud veterans.

As I have become older and more understanding of strong bonds and friendships, I can fully appreciate a military service that was unknown to me until recently. It's a private interment service available to those who survived the sinking of the Arizona. Survivors of that attack went on, though many of their brothers in arms never basked again in the sun. But their absence was never a full void. They were remembered long after they were gone.

With a h/t to Andrew Meyers, I became aware of a rather under-the-radar memorial commemoration that takes place above and in the submerged carcass of the Arizona.  Here's a private look into a rarely spoken of privilege for those who survived the Pearl Harbor attack, but like all of us will, ultimately succumb to time. How considerate and thoughtful of the armed forces-- not generally known for it's sensitivity -- to provide a touching and fitting farewell to the more recently passed. Those who wish to be reunited with their buddies who didn't make it out.

I'm really proud of our military for their warm and generous option they've provided our brave heroes. Bravo.

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Killer Fashions -- Just Ask The U.S. Army

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money down the drain

The United States is made of money. Just look to the Republicans who cost us at early estimates $24 Billion dollars for playing a stupid game of shutdown. Then you hear Obama and Congress talk about how they can cut waste from the government. They tried it with simple, across the board reductions, called sequestration.

The reductions in spending authority are approximately $85.4 billion during fiscal year 2013, with similar cuts for years 2014 through 2021.

It seems everywhere you look, there's overspending and wasted money. What's millions of dollars? Nothing. What's a few billion to our robust U.S. economy? A piffle. Bubkes.

The Daily Beast reports this latest in spending our tax money:

Eight years after spending $5 billion on a heavily-criticized universal camouflage pattern, the Army is back at the drawing board looking for a new design that’s estimated to cost another $4 billion.

Well, that's a total of only $9 billion. It's not like the Tea Party's $24 billion flush down the toilet. Let's be happy for little things.

WHAT?!!!! Are you shi***g me?

It's not like our army is going naked.

naked army 2

So what's the reason that after only 8 years into a design are we going to spend so much on some new threads?

If we wanted to call this a jobs bill and say we're going to add thousands of garment workers and allied industry employees to the employment lists, then call it that and make it happen. New uniforms every year, if that helps. Just make it happen here in the U.S. and not in some sweatshops overseas.

But to call it a jobs bill would really be simply a cover-up. The truth is....

Less than a decade after the so-called Universal Camouflage Pattern, or UCP, was introduced the Army is back to the drawing board, set to announce a new camouflage pattern and standard uniform to be worn by the more than million members of the active duty and reserve forces.

military uniforms

The real reason for the design change is a serious one. The last uniform, the UCP, was an utter disaster. Total waste of money and more importantly, it led to the many deaths of brave men and women soldiers because of the poorly conceived design. So hence, the seriousness of this issue.

But can't we learn from this tragic mistake? You would hope so. But alas, it's the Army and they're slow to respond.

Only 5 years after it was introduced the UCP’s failures had already become glaring enough to compel congressional intervention but despite the moratorium on its use in Afghanistan, it will have taken another 5 years for the Army to field its replacement.

No Quick Draw McGraw here.

You may be wondering who's going to take responsibility for the new uniforms. Donna Karan, Christian Dior, Christophe Josse, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, or Ralph Loren? Or how about something all purpose from Michael Kors. Something effective and slimming, yet with comfort and after-hours potential?

Fortunately, the government is taking precautions not to repeat their earlier blunder.

The Natick Army Soldier Systems Center, which does research and development on things like food, clothing, shelter for the military, conducted two studies on the Universal Camouflage Pattern, once in 2006 and again in 2009, both times finding that the UCP’s performance came up short when compared to other, more popular camouflages, like the Marine Corps desert pattern or the MultiCam.

So, the same company that approved the uniform to start with 9 years ago, then found it inadequate a few years later, is going to chose this year's pattern. The old, "If at first you don't succeed..." philosophy of our fine government.

Can you see anything going wrong with this picture?

Oh, well, we're America. We have tons of money to burn, and if not money, soldiers. Our government will fight to the last brave warrior for our well-being. You can count on that.

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What's Wrong With This Picture? Nothing. Make Dance, Not War

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What's wrong

Public uproar is echoing all throughout Israel. Why?

This video is the cause. It shows two Israeli soldiers, joining in among a throng of Palestinians, dancing with them, not firing upon them. It's a peaceful gesture, not a warlike, confrontational one. Perhaps a bit more dancing and a lot less shooting would lead to something constructive in the way of peace in this long, war torn area.

What we have to ask is why being moved by mutual love of music is wrong, and a government-sanctioned, staged soccer game between Israelis and Palestinians is okay? Isn't using spontaneous rhythm better and than guns and grenades? How can peace be achieved if soldiers are relieved of duty and punished for furthering a peace "movement?"

According to HuffPo World reporting:

An Israeli military spokesman said today that it considered the incident on Monday as “serious”.

He added that “the soldiers exposed themselves to unnecessary danger and were disciplined accordingly”.

Reports said that those involved had been suspended from duty.

The television channel said that the club was frequented by members of a Palestinian clan known for its pro-Hamas tendencies.  Hebron has been a flashpoint of violence between Jews and Palestinians for decades.

I'm married to an Israeli woman. So if anyone pays special attention to the war zone, it's a Sabra (native born Israeli) and his/her family.

Our household finds the dancing together a hopeful sign of peace when the region is so wrought with fear and tension. It's not like the official and staged for publicity Palestinian-Israeli talks the government are having are producing better results. Maybe less Knesset, less Bibbi Netenyahu and more good ol' friendly neighbor-to-neighbor negotiations might be in order. Play on Psy. Maybe you'll get more than a Grammy. Maybe the Nobel Peace Prize is in your future.

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