Archive for veterans

'Get Out and Push', Says Maddow of the Useless, U.S. Congress

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World's End

Maddow finally did it! Put her head on the desk in despair and choked out a couple of frustrated, choked "Gaah!!!"s in the opening block of her Friday evening show … on the gobstoppingly absurd absenteeism of 25% of the American diplomatic forces.

Key positions are vacant because the actual Do Nothing Congress is Out of Order. They won't even appoint or confirm - it's the mind-blowing equivalent of laying off 1 out of every four American diplomats and foreign service personnel around the world.

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For sheer spite. Obstructionism and putting some degrading 'asterisk' next to Obama's presidency is more important than our national security - to the GOP, neo-hawks.

The capper: Congress is currently less popular than Putin with the American people. As they are about to go on vacation themselves, it's going to be a race to do as little as possible.

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We currently have no ambassadors to Russia, Guatemala and more than a few other hotspots in foreign affairs this summer.

Bernie Sanders was slightly optimistic about the hopes of VA Reform early this afternoon. Despite both houses having passed the actual bill - Bernie Sanders and John McCain were the bloody co-sponsors, they had it down. Congress looked ready to pass a bill, #wtfbbqlaw??

Partisan bickering and final budget wrangling have ground even the Veterans Administration reform efforts to an astonishing new level of Gonzo Gridlock.

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Bernie joined Rachel at quarter past the hour to offer his perspective. He was no longer just optimistic. He seemed to be working his way up to projecting the announcing of an imminent deal. "Yesterday was a very rough day … but we will look abysmal if we cannot produce legislation to help the Veterans. … We plan on working tomorrow and Sunday, and despite the huge ideological differences … we can come together." {paraphrasey} Have a look.

Earlier in the day a veteran called Sanders 'intractable' and a bit of a problem in the gridlock, which raised my hackles but nonetheless deserves a look. Sanders is indeed determined to include mental health and traumatic brain injury as high priorities, and perhaps he is holding out for ideals. But he is fighting hard for progress within this dysfunctional congress.

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By contrast, the sub for Hannity had Paul The Younger on to bloviate about the Middle East, then let little Randy suggest an Iron Dome for the U.S.. Isolationist much?! Then he had a spin around the entire feeble Feck question on Ukraine, and did the obligatory 'lack of leadership' schtick.

"Staring down Putin" … he has been reading his Ayn.

Sorry for the early bird Fvx, but these side by side comparisons between the two cable networks, one delivering actual news with a stated liberal slant and a fan of facts, one that sells hysteria and propaganda like it's a new investment op; are critically important in the two views of this Dysfunctional Congress and the state of breaking bad they have sunk to.

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These compare and contrasts are so critical - the harsh disinfectant of light shining on the murk and hate at Fox Noise and diagnosing the brainwashing for what it is, a propaganda and cult network bent on guarding the wealth of the upper tier.

Oh, and that Rand Paul baldly boasted of calling the president to advise him was just that last bitter note that Fvx Nation is addicted to.

It's going to take the mother of all Twelve Step Programs to sort out those zombies and zombettes when they stumble away from the mother ship … a wrecked and listing Tea Party clipper.

crazy to work here

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Pity the Billionaire - or Not

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Listen to today's show:

Pity the Billionaire is the title of one of Thomas Frank's brilliant books, and one I immediately thought of when I read his current column, "Hillary Clinton forgets the '90s" Our latest gilded age and our latest phony populists" over at Salon.com.

In it, the man who originally asked What's the Matter with Kansas?  today reminds us that Hillary, with her latest references to our living in a new gilded age, was living in the White House with her then-president husband when Frank and his colleagues at The Baffler used the same phrase to describe that era.

In fact, as Frank recounts, there were a number of policies put in place by the Clinton administration that helped set us up for some of the big economic failures of the following decade, including

The point that really nailed the Gilded Age comparison, however, was the obvious return of monopoly in industry after industry. The concentration of media ownership, a development facilitated by Clinton’s 1996 telecom deregulation, was particularly scary: The Nation magazine ran a big chart showing who owned whom in the “National Entertainment State”; I myself called it the “Culture Trust.”

[Nicole's note: Thanks a fucking boatload for DESTROYING my industry Bill!]

The same kind of monopoly-building was happening in the ’90s in food processing and meat packing. It was happening in oil. It was happening among defense contractors, with the Clinton Administration’s active encouragement. And, as we all know, it was happening in the financial sector, a process that culminated in the much-celebrated repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999. Then there were Bill Clinton’s beloved free-trade deals; one effect of these, according to Barry Lynn of the New America Foundation, has been to expose our economy to monopolies based overseas, which have proceeded to gobble up sectors like the beer industry, 80 percent of which is controlled today by just two foreign companies.

Hmm.. Thomas Frank joined me on the show to talk about all of that and more this morning, and reminded me that next time, we need to begin our segment earlier because it always goes by way too quickly!

To begin the second hour of the show each day, we talk with someone from the Talk Radio News Service. Today it was former Congressman Bob Ney, who had some first-hand problems with Darrell Issa and had no problem sharing them with us when I asked about his embarrassing behavior at yesterday's hearing on the IRS non-scandal. We also briefly discussed the new report on climate change by a new organization, co chaired by Michael Bloomberg, Henry Paulson, and Tom Steyer - Risky Business. Check it out here, and stay tuned, as we'll unpack it on a future show soon.

As she does every Tuesday morning, The Political Carnival's GottaLaff  joined in for hour two.

We had fun - talking about John Oliver's calling the chair of the FCC a Dingo and getting called out on it, and naming a Faux Newsmodel today's "world's biggest asshole". We got serious - reading an email from a Vietnam War veteran who knows what our current wave of returning veterans are going through.  And we marveled at the amazing parents of one brave eight year old.

I don't think Laffy posted this story yet, so I will. The names have been changed to protect the privacy of the family.

A friend of ours shared a letter she got from another family, friends of theirs. We'll call them Lisa and Ted. Lisa and Ted have a son named Daniel. What follows is part of the letter they sent to friends and family, and I thank them for sharing their awesome parenting and research with us.

To those of you who have spent any time around us and know Daniel, I am sure it is obvious that he, like all kids, has his own set of unique and wonderful - as well as obnoxious – qualities.  Daniel is basically a typical 8 year old. He loves to read and draw. He enjoys climbing rocks, looking for bugs and worms, and making forts.  He is currently obsessed with ‘Wild Kratts’ and ‘creature powers’, and he loves swimming, playing in the ocean, camping and riding his bike. One of his favorite past times (much to our chagrin) is belting out songs at the top of his lungs (the current favorite is ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen). He can be loud and bossy at times but also super sweet and sometimes overly affectionate.   He is very intuitive and observant but he struggles at school with focusing and staying on task.

Daniel is also all about “typical” girl things:  Barbies, fairies, twirly dresses and all things related to fashion. He prefers to play with girls rather than boys, and identifies with everything feminine.  He can create very artistic outfits, complete with high heels, out of a few scarves and safety pins. He is fond of modeling and performing for whoever will watch.  He prefers to wear a nightgown to bed, and chooses girls skirts, leggings and dresses out to play and to school.

Since Daniel has shown all of these behaviors consistently since he was two, Ted and I have done our best to support him as he is; to talk to him about his feelings, make sure he is comfortable in his own skin, and to educate ourselves.  We have done a lot of research and participate in a local support group, as well as a national organization that links families like ours together.

Right now Daniel is figuring out what feels right – she has expressed a desire for us, her teacher and kids at school to use feminine pronouns and the name, Sophie.   Daniel feels and acts like a girl. People who don’t know us always assume he is a girl. He loves when people mistake him for a girl and it happens all the time now. In fact, at his request, we are transitioning ‘him’ to ‘her’ in all her upcoming summer camps. We have talked with the principal at her school and, though all legal documents still will read ‘Daniel’, she will be entering 3rd grade next year as a girl named Sophie, with everything that entails, including use of the girls’ restroom. We do not know how Daniel will identify himself in 2, 5 or 10 years. All we know is who she feels herself to be today – Sophie.

There is a lot of information about our situation and a LOT of kids, boys and girls, like Sophie who have traits of the opposite genders.  The “scientific” terms for how Sophie acts are gender variant, gender fluid, or gender non-conforming and possibly transgender. We know from our outreach that many kids like Sophie have considerably more stress about the dichotomy between their anatomy and their internal gender.  And there are many kids, unlike Sophie, who are gender different but only slightly so (i.e. feel no need to dress or wear hair as the opposite gender).  We feel very fortunate that, at least right now, she seems a happy and well-adjusted child without a lot of angst or worries, who gets to express herself in play and life  just as it feels right to her (like all of us gender-typical people do all the time!).   She wears what she wants to school, play, or family events and we honor her request to be called Sophie.  We expect that things may change as she ages but our hope is that she will never have to hide who she is in order to be safe and feel loved.

Here are some of the facts:

  • Research indicates that gender identity and behavior is hard wired in the brain before or soon after birth and that biologic factors (hormone levels etc.) cement gender identity during the first 6-12 months of life.  Sophie’s attraction to girl things, her need to dress like a girl in order to express how she feels inside and to play with girl things -  are as normal to her and as much a part of her inner being as being left-handed or having perfect pitch is to some people.  All of Sophie’s behaviors –boyish ones and girlish ones, come from within.  They are not choices she is making.  They are part of her just like her brownie blue eyes and her sensitive soul.
  •  This is not something that as parents, we can “fix”.  Some might argue that we “encourage” it, so it continues.  Some might say that if we didn’t “indulge” her desires then she would forget about them (out of sight out of mind).  They would be totally wrong.  Sophie chooses to wear a dress/skirt or sparkly tight leggings when, inside she feels like she wants to be herself. She doesn’t wear a dress to get attention – she does it because she wants to express herself and that is what feels right to her.  When we have a dress up affair, her immediate desire is for a dressy outfit and high heels because that’s what dressy means to her.  If this is not intuitive to you – those of you that have boys, are married to boys or are typical boys – ask yourself if that boy would ever put on a dress or heels just to be silly or get attention?  I assume the answer is no.  Sophie does sometimes seek attention when she is in an outfit she thinks is especially pretty - but it is because she wants to show off her true self, not because she can’t get attention other ways.
  •  This is not something Sophie is going to grow out of.  None of us know what kind of adult she will be, but this is not a “phase”.  She may become more “boyish” or more “girlish” or go back and forth between the two her whole life.  And even though she is only 8 it already creates some stress for her.  She is well aware that other boys don’t play like she does – for the most part, so far, she doesn’t care what anyone thinks, she just revels in the joy she feels when she can express the girl part of herself.
  •  No matter how open-minded a person you think you are or how much you love someone – seeing a boy act and dress like a girl is awkward at best and basically a hard thing to accept easily, at first.  I can tell you though, that awkwardness disappears with time – she is just Sophie, regardless of what she is wearing.  We are all so “norm” socialized that it makes even the best of us feel “funny” to see her in a dress.   [BTW- there are plenty of girls who are gender fluid also, and experience discrimination, bullying etc. – however, at this young age our society and socialization make those girls who act and dress like boys blend in better. They are way easier to accept than boys who act like girls.]
  •  Eight year old children are not sexual beings.  Plain and simple.  So this issue for us – from now to puberty at least – is not about what Sophie’s life will be like as an adult, but just about what it is like to be different.  Somehow people just can’t help themselves from thinking gender identity equates with sexual orientation.  From what limited research there is out there, we know that a small percentage of these kids are truly transgender and will go on to physically change genders as teens or adults.  A percentage (higher than in a control group) will be gay and some will be heterosexual.  The point we are making is that whom-so-ever Sophie becomes in 10 years, gender-wise or sexual preference-wise, is absolutely NOT the issue.  The issue is that she needs support and encouragement to love herself as she is now.

We are providing this letter because, if it were you having issues in your family that were as important as this, we would want to understand what those issues were and be able to be informed and supportive.  Along those lines, there is a lot more information out there about gender variance than we have summarized here. If you are interested we are happy to share.  Below there are a couple articles that you might find of interest and we can share other resources if you want as well.

We know for a fact that if we had said nothing at all, you would accept and love Sophie just as she is.  Now that we have said something, we also know that you will support our decisions to let her express herself freely and decide for herself what to wear and how to present herself:  that you will love, play, discipline and enjoy her in every way possible and encourage her to be the happiest and best person she is capable of being.  She should not get any extra slack for being different – she needs to learn from each of you how to behave like a good person and that is what we hope you will teach her.

These are the things we try to do to support Sophie and to help her build a strong character and sense of self:  We hope you, our family and friends, will help us in doing everything possible to see that she aspires to great things.  For now, we just want our home and our friends’ and families’ homes to be her “safe” places where she can be herself, whoever that is at that moment.

  • Love her for who she is.
  • Validate her – whenever it comes up or there is conversation, let her know that you know it to be true that there is more than one way to be a boy or a girl, that you imagine it is hard that some kids don’t get how you feel, etc.
  • Encourage her individuality (you look beautiful in that dress!) and avoid stereotypical comments (boys don’t skip!)
  • Acknowledge and celebrate difference – she is different and knows it and there is nothing to be ashamed of – when she wants to talk about it, talk about it; give examples of how you are different or how being different can be great!
  • Try and deal with your own demons – recognize your own internal issues about gender and how they play in to your feelings about Sophie.
  • Be Sophie’s advocate – if you are with her in a situation where something is awkward – someone is teasing or judgmental – speak up for her, and help her speak up for herself.
  • No victim blaming  –– Sophie is not responsible for other people’s intolerance – neither she nor we, her family/friends, have to ‘accept’ that people are going to be judgmental nor does she/we have to constantly be hiding who she is in order to fit in - when people tease or bully or are unaccepting, they are at fault.
  • Think about tolerance in other things that you do – making the world OK for Sophie means we all have to work on squashing eons of ingrained stereotypes; think of ways to line up or sort people other than “boys in one line, girls in another”, advocate for others who are different and struggling, examine the world around you and step up/speak out when someone is treated unfairly or unjustly because they are not like you and don’t blend in.

In spite of this horribly lengthy missive, in the grand scheme of things, Sophie’s gender variance is just an attribute of her for us to celebrate and learn from.  We are so lucky to have a happy healthy kid. Relative to the horrific things that other people have to endure with their kids all over the world, this is nothing.

And lastly, being our family and friends, we have no doubt that everyone will have an opinion to share – we hope so!  We encourage you to ask us anything you want and to offer whatever suggestions you have.  This parenting thing is a conundrum at best and we can use a lot of help!  The one thing that we ask is that you all respect our decision to support Sophie unequivocally. If you have an issue with that decision or you don’t agree with it, you take that up with us – not her.  For right now, she is growing her hair, wearing girl clothes and being addressed as Sophie (which she loves).  So as long as she is behaving as any nice child should, we don’t expect her to take grief in any form, from anyone in our inner circle.

Pretty amazing parenting! I only hope that I'd have been as open minded and wonderful if ever faced with a similar situation. All we parents have our own hurdles to conquer, but "Lisa and Ted" have earned my greatest respect.

I'll be back tomorrow with another show, with Crooks & Liars' Susie Madrak, and Truthout's Dahr Jamail.

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Email from a vet: "The strange attachment to the f**kers who killed us"

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I was part of an email exchange today that included the following from two colleagues who I've gotten to know and admire over the years. Their heartfelt commentaries on Iraq, war, and Team Bush punctured my heart. They made such raw sense, their words and thoughts were so powerful, so passionate, and so compelling, they'll likely haunt me for some time. The first is an unfiltered flood of astute and fierce commentary by a vet.

With their permission, I am now sharing the emails with you, verbatim.

Whether you agree or disagree with the author, what is indisputable is that these words were written by someone who's been through hell and back. They're painful to read. He was there and knows what he's talking about, as opposed to the usual blathering pundits, so-called experts, and BushCo chickenhawks:

I was watching Glenn Greenwald and Paul Rieckhoff have themselves a grand old dick off. Dicks were waved, measured, and assessed like they were wine snobs in Napa during the first pour.

Yeah, they're both dicks. So's Maher that fucknozzle, shithead's not even very funny anymore.

What I saw in Rieckhoff though, reminded me of exactly what I went through. As my illusions of war, national pride, honor, all of that happy shit faded, I quickly created new illusions to cling to.

Without them I probably would have melted down completely. I had to hold on to the illusion that I somehow waded through all that shit for some kind of reason. That somehow, through all of that, I managed to salvage some measure of personal honor. Other folks went apeshit, did the raping, did the atrocity, but not me. Yeah, bullshit isn't it?

I was there. I was in it up to my fucking neck.

Did anything save me? Nope. All I finally was able to cling to was the hard bitten, hard won wisdom of the boonie rats.

When shit climbed up on us, when somebody was an eyelash away from going completely over the fucking edge, somebody would open their grimy fucking mouth to say,

"Fuck it man. Don't mean nothing."

That's how we got through. That's what we used to step ourselves back.

Fuck it man, don't mean nothing. Most of the time right after that somebody else would chime in with, "Yeah. Don't mean nothing. Fuck it, ruck up, press on."

The politics that sent us there were bullshit. Fuckers like McNamara in the Pentagon, Westmoreland in his air conditioned well-fed bunker in Saigon (Here's a quick strategic guide for you, if you need to live in a bunker in the capitol of your area of operations, you ain't winning jack fucking shit anytime soon troop) knew the truth of what was going on as well as Cheney, Bush and all those motherfuckers knew.

They knew and they did it anyway. Motherfuckers.

I quit asking all those existential questions, quit looking for the fucking meaning of it, because I realized there wasn't anything there to be found.

Rieckhoff and his companions are still clinging to the illusions that kept them alive, maybe even kept them from going absolutely bug fuck.

It has to mean something to them. Hell, they can lie enough to tell themselves that a lot of it actually fucking worked.

I won't challenge them. It's his life, and his fucking process, he has to walk that shit alone.

Besides, the only comfort I can give him is to put an hand on his shoulder and say,

"Fuck it man, don't mean nothing, it never fucking did. Deal with it and go from there. You'll fucking sleep better."

A response to that email produced some of the most effective imagery I've encountered on this topic:

Some guys (like Cheney, et. al.) can't bear the thought of losing, so like gamblers they keep playing a losing game, telling themselves that if they stay in long enough they eventually get to "win."

I had this image of George W. Bush sitting at the slots with a bowl full of dog tags in his lap, shoving them into the machine one after another and pulling the lever, muttering, "If you don't quit, you don't lose."

President Bush Endorses John McCain For President

Iraq war dog tags Source Wikimedia dot orgImage: Wikimedia.org

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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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Bernie Sanders Declares War on the Unpatriotic, V.A. Defunding GOP

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Bernie Sanders

Written by guest contributor, "hardybear" of the wonderful Free Range Talk site:

For an actual pacifist - check his cred from The March On Washington with MLK on - Bernie Sanders has launched a veritable GOP-Infidel Crusade from his seat as committee chair for Veterans Affairs, and it  arguably looks to be his destiny to guarantee we finally right one of the most egregiously immoral wrongs the greedy GOP has crafted over decades yet.

I've said it before, hardybear here is a native Vermonter and we know firsthand that Bernie 'has made politics a better beast'. And he is going to bring it to the hypocritical 1%er's who talk a big Wounded Warrior game ... then defund, cut, slash and burn their actual CARE.

The sweet progressive hope for a Sanders/Warren ticket would find fertile ground for miles in every direction from our small town, and likely resound through his childhood home of Brooklyn before shooting out to Laffy Land and the warm embrace of California's première progressives.

All is yet possible, but his legacy as The Senator that finally fixed the god damned Veterans Affairs Administration conundrum would fittingly crown a progressive career.

Catch his recent interview with Rachel Maddow below, as the resignation of Shinseki left us anything but resigned to allow the GOP to get away with this hypocritical, anti-troops assault.

 

Sanders patently obviously protested Vietnam, so the full circle significance of his undertaking of the honorable accommodation of the Agent Orange and PTSD qualification influx is a total liberal manna.

Combined with the aging factor of the vet population and Bush-Cheney's generous donation of thousands more wounded warriors, the additional barrage of newly qualified patients dead-broke the system the Republicans have refused to fund for decades.

This is our Bernie's wheelhouse. He goes after the Regressive Asshattery with every rumpled fiber of his being, and as we learn more from honorable media folk like Maddow who will partner with him in shaming the GOP into the systemic overhaul they have immorally refused to fund.

Bernie says loudly that we spend too much on guns and amorphous money-sucking military toys … when our priority should be taking care of the kids we have already partially destroyed and those who served before them. He was on this in February. [Pardon the Blitzer.]

Paring the military industrial complex in the process is one massively fine hit for peace.

 

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Sec. Eric Shinseki and Press Secretary Jay Carney resign (VIDEO)

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President Obama announces Shinseki resignation

President Obama made a statement to the press and announced the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. Meet Sloan Gibson, Shinseki’s replacement at the VA. The new appointee is the Department of Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary. He will serve as temporary head of the VA until he decides on a permanent replacement for Eric Shinseki.

Following his remarks, he popped in again to announce Press Secretary Jay Carney's resignation. Carney will be replaced by Josh Earnest.

According to MSNBC, this announcement came as a complete surprise. President Obama said of Josh Earnest,"His name describes his demeanor. Josh is an earnest guy, you can't find a nicer individual."

The video includes both the president's remarks and Jay Carney's.

More from the president:

"Jay has become one of my closest friends and is a great press secretary and a great adviser. He has good judgement, good temperament and he's got a good heart. I'm gonna miss him a lot."

And from Carney:

"It's an important interaction that takes place here. It's not always pretty. It could certainly be better. But to be a part of it is an honor and a joy for me. And no matter how tough the briefing is, I walk out of here having been glad to stand here."

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"Voters need to keep the source of scandal -mongering in mind when they're at the polls"

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veterans, women, gays, immigrants, elderly  va scandal

The VA scandal is real, and it's disturbing as hell. Nobody disputes that. On the bright side (*sarcasm*), Fox News contributor Ben Carson went so far as to call the VA scandal "a gift from God." What a guy, what. a. guy.

But there is more to the VA mess than playing the blame game. Scape-goating won't fix the problem, because the problem is systemic. So, while the GOP insists on exploiting what's left of their Benghazi!!!! and IRS smears as "scandals," they have proven not to be. The Veterans Affairs story, on the other hand, is, but it involves a number of components.

For example, via HuffPo: 41 Republican Senators Voted Against a Landmark Veterans Bill in February, Today They Blame the VA.

Here are some additional takes on "Another Obama scandal? Consider the source" via today's Los Angeles Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:

It would be hard to disagree with Cathleen Decker's assertion that the Obama White House has an image of "one mess after another." It's largely composed of anything that will stick to the shovels of those digging for dirt, from tea party enemies to Fox News to House Republicans who sense danger for their party. ("VA crisis echoes Obamacare's stumbles: 'Drip, drip, drip,'" May 24)

Voters need to keep the source of the scandal-mongering in mind when they're at the polls. Having a Democratic-controlled Congress would be a big step back to collegial debate without shutdowns, intentional distortions and false scandals.

Jules Brenner

Hollywood

***

If a detailed, accurate evaluation of the current problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals is carried out, my guess is that it will show that the VA has had to shoulder huge additional responsibilities because of aging veterans and new ones from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, all of whom clearly deserve all that they have been promised. But the funding to fulfill those promises has been grossly inadequate.

We need to learn who is responsible. If it is the result of Congress failing to fund services, then those members responsible need to accept the blame.

Gertrude Barden

Porter Ranch

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I am an older veteran who has only recently needed help. I found that the wait time for appointments has been as quick as with my private doctors, and the help at the VA clinic in South L.A. has been both friendly and professional.

If I had to find fault, it would be with the coffee — it's a little strong for my taste.

Oliver Eugene Thomas

Pasadena

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