A bad comedy gone wrong

I spent 12 hours in a classroom yesterday to get my CCW permit. Over and over, it was drilled into us, you can’t go shooting people over property, insults, or because you don’t like someone.
And here is President Obama saying he’s going to go after North Korea for hacking Sony Entertainment and threatening movie theaters that show a banal “comedy” about the assassination of North Korea’s boy leader.
I’m sorry, but I don’t think any of this is funny for a litany of reasons.
First- the hack. Since when is it the Federal government’s responsibility to protect the computers of an entertainment company? How is this any different than the multiple hacks that have stolen our personal information from the likes of Target or Home Depot? Because supposedly the hack came from North Korea? Is Obama channeling George W. Bush, who attacked Afghanistan for the work of 21 Saudi Nationals on 9/11?
Code knows no national boundaries- and with the simplicity of anonymizing servers- can be sent from anywhere to anywhere. Because someone used the same lines of code is hardly a smoking gun- I use the same words you do to say “I have to go to the bathroom.”
And after Edward Snowden released the vast evidence of our ability to read, analyze and filter the masses of communications all over the planet- do you really expect me to believe the NSA was asleep at the wheel when both the hack and the threat supposedly came from North Korea? Really? Because so much Internet traffic comes in and out of that walled cesspool of a country.
Then there is the “threat” to do damage to the theaters that show the film. Let’s see, trillions spent on “Homeland Security” and our military- and we’re really going to believe that if this film is shown- the North Koreans are going to nuke us?
Granted, any head of state who thinks anything worthwhile comes out of meeting Dennis Rodman isn’t exactly the sharpest crayon in the box- but, there are probably 4,000 theaters that may show this film- and he’s going to target them all? Or even one? With the telegraphed threat, the probability of success is zero.
And, really, poking the bear usually never works out well for little kimmy.
There have been movies made about dictators, kidnapping presidents, killing heads of state since, well, the early ages of film. Comedies- like Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” didn’t start WWII- and the recent Hollywood action flick “Olympus has fallen” had the North Koreans attacking the White House- where were the complaints that time?
Although the hack did a bunch of damage to Sony Entertainment- let’s be realistic- that hack did more damage to the hacks that run the company who embarrassed themselves much worse than our State Department did with crass and irresponsible statements released by Snowden.
And although Sony Entertainment is “American” it’s still owned by Sony- a Japanese company- why isn’t North Korea taking on the Japanese? Maybe it’s the fact that when the Japanese went to war there they dominated- while we stalemated..
You know that every Hollywood action film has to have two things- a good guy and a bad guy- the fact that North Korea has served as our “bad guy” for almost 70 years is getting a little old. Hell, we just decided to take Cuba out of the doghouse into the yard. They’re not quite invited in – but it’s a step in the right direction.
With the way our media is manipulated and despite access to more information than ever before- I’m half wondering if the “threat” to theaters showing “The Interview” isn’t just another Hollywood marketing department run amok. Remember how Boston shut down in 2007 in a panic over “space invader signs” that mysteriously appeared as a promo for another banal comedy?
If this was what happened, would anyone be able to wipe the egg off their faces?
If we really want to torture the North Korean leadership- print enough DVDs of the movie dubbed in Korean- and carpet bomb the country with them. Seth Rogan’s bomb of a movie can torture them instead of us.
And honestly, not showing this movie in America is probably an underappreciated Christmas gift to all of us.

Retraining America, not just the police

Photo of a taser body cam with a red circle slash on top

Body cams aren’t the answer

If you and I have similar friends on Facebook, hardly a day goes by without seeing an example of a cop behaving badly caught on film. Yet, despite film of the choke-hold killing of  Eric Garner, for what couldn’t amount to more than a misdemeanor crime, the cop walks.

There is the video of a guy turning to his car to get his ID as the cop instructed him to- and ending up with a newly perforated body- caught on film by the officer’s own dash cam.

There is the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice on a Cleveland playground, within 2 seconds of the cop’s arrival- all caught on film.

The president and the family of Michael Brown think that body cams will somehow solve the problem. Ask Eric Garner how the camera worked for him?

Shooting as a solution has been programmed into the mindset of Americans for the last 30 years- on camera- via television. College kids have a drinking game – drink a shot every time Jack Bauer kills someone in an episode of “24.” Long gone are the days of Sheriff Andy Griffin, who wouldn’t let his deputy have more than one bullet.

The art of diplomacy as practiced as part of the job of “peace officer” has been replaced with SWAT gear, body armor and tanks. Yes, tanks.

Take a look at how your local beat cop dresses. Thirty years ago, he wore a white shirt, a tie, jacket, shiny dress shoes and a dress cap. Now, we’re seeing cargo pants, polo shirts over a bullet proof vest and a baseball cap. The shiny shoes, replaced with combat boots. The six-shot .38 revolver, now a 13-round .40 cal. automatic, plus a taser. We’re putting soldiers on the streets to do police work. Look in the trunk of the cruiser- where there used to be a shotgun, there’s also an AR-15.

You only need these kinds of tools in war. In fact, long ago, our government saw the danger of using a military to enforce local laws.

In June of 1878, at the end of Reconstruction, Congress passed the Posse Comitatus Act, to prevent an army from enforcing state laws. Yet, when President Nixon began his “War on Drugs” in June 1971, we declared war on our people and started putting ridiculous numbers of them in prison- tearing apart basic family structures and creating an entire subculture of perpetually underemployed people in our country. The country where “all men are created equal” began to come apart.

The funny thing is that this all started happening after we got done patting ourselves on the backs for passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, where we stopped looking at blacks as some sort of sub-human underclass. Folks, note, this was only 50 years ago.

I was just reading about how MLK and his captains, planned to manipulate the media in Birmingham- how they wanted to overload the jails, how they wanted the water cannons turned on the protesters- and the dogs set loose. The use of children as protestors had some people worried- Robert Kennedy, who was the Attorney General was quoted as saying “An injured, maimed or dead child is a price that none of us can afford to pay.”

How do we reconcile that with the dead Tamir Rice? Michael Brown? Trayvon Martin? The list goes on, and we don’t even think there is a price connected to these acts anymore. We came together on Sept. 11, 2001 in horror, because a few dozen idiots managed to kill 3,000+ “innocent Americans” in an act of terrorism, yet every day in America 32 Americans die by gun violence- meaning that every 100 or so days- is the equivalent of a World Trade Center attack.

We’re numb. We’re dumb and we’re naive if we think the problem is going to be solved with body cams.

The first step has to be a re-evaluation of what constitutes a crime in America. Eric Garner was getting harassed for selling single cigarettes “illegally” on the street. He ended up dead. The Wall Street bozos put millions of people out of work, out of their homes, and collapsed our economy- yet, none of them spent a day in court.

We spend more incarcerating people involved in illegal drug sales than we spend on education in this country. What happens if we paid for college instead of paying to turn people into unemployable x-offenders? What happens if we treat drug addiction with health care professionals instead of by warehousing them in prisons?

Decriminalizing pot is long overdue. Why is methadone treatment an ok substitution for heroin, even though it barely works? If someone wants to be drunk it’s ok- but high, oh, no? If they want to smoke cigs OK- but shoot heroin no- even though nicotine is a harder drug to beat?

We put our police in impossible situations daily- asking them to do things they aren’t really supposed to do. Now, they carry narcam to save people from OD’ing on opiates- what happened to making sure people didn’t speed on the streets, or steal porch furniture?

We can’t expect better police until we have a better understanding of what their role in society is. If it’s to be engaged in a war on drugs, and we continue to militarize them- we’re going to get more of the same. If we do a reset, and get back to keeping the peace and instilling a sense of safety for all- we might get back to the time where talking first comes back in style.

I’ve purposely stayed away from talking about the John Crawford murder in Beavercreek. And while I think John Crawford was an idiot, who had no clue on how to act in public while holding something that resembled a gun, the cop, Sean Williams, had no clue on how to appraise and defuse the situation.

When he arrived, with his limited information as relayed by the dispatcher, from an unverified source (the 911 caller was a completely unreliable idiot), he entered a Wal-Mart expecting an “active shooter situation.” However, there were no crowds of people heading for the doors in a panic, there were no people screaming- that all was caused by the cop failing society and shooting a guy with a pellet gun who was talking on his phone. A woman, leaving the store in the cop-caused shooting panic, died. Two people died because of a cop operating with training that was fundamentally flawed. Training that allows us to easily “afford” to justify shooting people in the name of protecting the peace.

We’ve become so accustomed to violence in this country, that the photo of Bull Connor’s dogs and water canons barely would register as a violation of our social compact. Those images were tame compared to the video of the murder of Eric Garner- an unarmed man, choked to death by a bevy of “peace officers.”

No, a retraining of police isn’t the answer- we need to retrain our entire country. This is not how we should treat each other. This is not America the beautiful anymore, where all men are created equal, land of the free and home of the brave.

We live in a police state that’s run amok. You can watch the video anytime you want.

 

 

 

 

The nadir of American “politics”?

This election, Nov. 4, 2014, may have been where America hit political rock bottom. At least I hope so. Estimates of $3.6 billion wasted on what amounted to an auction of elected office. Voters, disgusted with the lack of respectable and credible candidates stayed home for the most part. Those who voted often felt dirty.

If you need proof that those running this clown show have lost touch with reality, from this morning’s N.Y. Times:

“Barack Obama has our country in a ditch, and many of his lieutenants running for the Senate were right there with him,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. “The punishment is going to be broad, and it’s going to be pretty serious.”

via Election Results: Republicans Win Senate Control With at Least 7 New Seats – NYTimes.com.

“The punishment” for serving our country? The punishment for trying to work in a system that’s been derailed by dirty money and gerrymandered districts? Where our government actually shut down because of the lack of the most basic skills critical to civilized society- compromise?

I was once chided by none other than former Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin for talking about politicians- when she corrected me with her definition of herself as an elected representative. When will our “elected representatives” start acting like representatives again? What happened to the statesman?

In the city of Dayton- less than 24,000 people voted- of the approximately 100,000 registered voters. Granted I believe the total to be inflated as much as 25,000- but that still says more than half stayed home.

As to our country being “in a ditch” and placing blame unilaterally on Democrats- I truly wonder what we were in when Barack Obama took office? The economy had just disintegrated thanks to Wall Street being run like a casino. We’re still at war, with zero end in sight- even though we still are pretending we’re not. And, while numbers of unemployed are low- we’ve taken so many people off the rolls- and accepted the fact that most workers are now woefully underemployed in sub-living wage hell, that our economy is nothing but a house of cards, ready to implode once again.

The stock market is near record highs- just waiting for a “correction” that will wipe trillions off our general net worth- and yet, the chairman of the Republican party is doing a happy dance with his new-found power.

For the first time in 22 years- the idea of running for office, to make a difference, turns my stomach. If this is the way the game will be played from here on out- it’s one that disgusts me.

If anyone who was elected yesterday, truly believes that it’s because of their skill and merit- other than perhaps Fred Strahorn and Jim Butler, who both faced hapless opposition, they should be ashamed of themselves.

We’re all losing when political office is bought- not won, when campaigns are about mud, not ability and when choices are almost always the lesser of two evils.

Montgomery County Republican Party factions playing games with OH-42 seat

Last week, Esrati.com gave you the long list of potential candidates to fill OH-42 existing term, and the ballot position for Terry Blair’s seat. You may have read about it in the Dayton Daily news a few days later.

Today, the DDn ran a press release from the “Conservative Republican Leadership Committee”- read that the Tea Party People who are pretending to not be Tea Party People:

A Republican Party group plans a candidates’ forum tonight on the eve of local GOP leaders voting to replace the late Terry Blair on the ballot for a seat in the Ohio General Assembly.

The Conservative Republican Leadership Committee forum will include three of the four candidates vying to replace Blair, who died June 26 during the last months of his third term in the 42nd District seat in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Niraj Antani of Miami Twp. and Washington Twp. residents Mark Crawford, Scott Paulson and Tom Young have expressed interest in replacing Blair. Republicans are set to vote Thursday on a candidate.

That person will face Democrat Leonard D. Johnson, 67, of West Carrollton in November in a district that also includes Germantown, German Twp., Miamisburg and Moraine. The winner will be elected to a two-year term with an annual salary of $60,584.

The forum, set for 7 p.m. at the Washington Twp. Recreation Center, will include all of the candidates but Young. Young said Tuesday that notice was too short for him to attend the event, which he became aware of late Friday.

The forum will include a question-and-answer session with the candidates followed by written questions from the audience, said Ohio House 36th District state Rep. Seth Morgan, the forum moderator.

“This is a great opportunity — and the only opportunity that we know of that is open to the public — for the public to ask questions,” he said.

Morgan said the forum will help voters assess the candidates in the “highly conservative district.” It tends to lean Republican, with 58 percent of the votes cast in the 2012 presidential election going to the GOP candidate, according to the Montgomery County Board of Elections. “We think this is a great opportunity for the public to engage in the conversation,” he said. “The party will do what the party will do.” District party precinct captains – which number between 65 and 70 – are set to meet at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Mandalay Banquet Center, said Dave Landon, vice chair of the county GOP Executive Committee.

Each candidate will have an opportunity to address the audience, he said, before the vote. Landon is among the party precinct captains in the district but declined to say how he will vote.

via Forum set for House seat.

What they don’t tell you is that Tom Young already had a meet and greet on Sunday afternoon at the Chop House hosted by Sheriff Phil Plummer and Sharon Lowry- the “chair and co-chair of the Montgomery County Republican Party” (even though they weren’t elected to the positions after former chair Rob Scott stepped down). I’m sure Tom Young made that meeting on short notice. Here is a link to a badly scanned leaked invite: Plummer invite to Young event

Having Seth Morgan as the moderator sets the tone for this to be a more radical Republican event, however, Young is unworthy of office in my book if he can’t make it to the only candidates’ forum being held. Insiders say only Paulson and Young have a shot- with Paulson being backed by the upstarts who flipped the party to lean Tea in the last legal party election- including potential future House Speaker Rep. Jim Butler, OH-41. Old school GOP folks on the friends and family plan, prefer Young.  Crawford who immediately sent out a two-page letter to all members of the central committee asking for consideration, spelling out his global experience and qualifications, unfortunately- I can’t find my copy of it, but I’m sure someone will supply another copy within a few hours of my posting it.

Niraj Antani is the young go-getter in the group- who is being ignored by almost everyone. He’s probably the only one who is social media aware- favoring my first tweet about the showdown, and quickly following me on Twitter. Crawford also seems to have some social media chops as well. As to Young and Paulson- not so much.

If the Republicans really cared, the party would have sponsored this event and made sure a video was up on YouTube before the vote tomorrow night. However, this isn’t an open and welcoming Republican party- it’s a nest of infighting children arguing over whose daddy has more money. For now, that would be the Sheriff.

The dirty little secret of the VA: failures in government contracting

While Congress continues to feast on the foibles of the VA, pointing fingers at anything that moves, one little minor problem continues to be overlooked: Federal contracting and its farcical system of awarding contracts and providing the lowest and best cost solutions to the taxpayers. The Feds are the largest purchaser of goods and services in this country.

As a Service Disabled Veteran, who owns his own business, and jumped through all the hoops to become a “Certified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business” I still have not managed to crack the code of getting work from the Federal Government- including the VA, which is committed to spending at least 7% of their purchasing power with SDVOB’s.

While Congress has the VA on full lynch mode- and claims to have Veterans interests at heart, they’ve never gotten upset that the Federal Government has totally failed to follow it’s own law:

The Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999 (Public Law 106-50 Download Adobe Reader to read this link content) established an annual government-wide goal of not less than 3% of the total value of all prime contract and subcontract awards for participation by small business concerns owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans.

via Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concerns (SDVOSBC) | SBA.gov.

The main reason: the government depends on the General Services Administration (GSA) to approve all potential contractors with an arcane system called a GSA Schedule. Called “a license to hunt” by veterans’ advocates, the process of getting a GSA schedule is convoluted and overly burdensome, especially for small businesses. While the GSA demands the lowest and best price offered to the government, we’ve seen how well that works with minor purchases like the the F-35 going over budget and way past on time.

From paper clips to printing to pharmaceuticals, the system is rigged so that only a small number of vendors are actually able to compete or bid all in the name of “fairness.”

The VA, is also forced to use private contractors solicited via this process- and when they fail, there are no repercussions to the  contractors.

Take my eyeglasses for example. Mine were broken on Friday May 9th 2014. I was seen that night at the VA. I’d recently had an eye exam, and went to the eyeglasses shop on Monday to get a new pair made. They told me they were running 4-5 weeks behind, which struck me as odd- since there are any number of places in Dayton that can supply eyeglasses same or next day. Luckily, I’m friends with Kevin Harrington of Downtown Dayton Optical and he made me a few pairs of fixed glasses to replace my no line bifocals that day. By Wednesday I realized switching glasses every time I got a text was going to be unbearable for 4-5 weeks, I asked him to make me a pair of no line bifocals. He got them to me the next Monday.

Sign at Dayton VA explaining delay in glasses delivery

Sign at the Dayton VA Optical Shop

It was still bothering me that a pair of eyeglasses for veterans would take that long and I contacted Director Glenn Costie- explaining that glasses are pretty essential to a veteran and there is no excuse for that long a wait. Turns out I was right.

I was called by one of his assistants who told me the contract stipulated 2 week max. They were in the process of switching contractors, to one promising one week. After a month had gone by and still no glasses, I sent a note to Director Costie asking “Why isn’t your purchasing department penalizing the hell out of this crappy vendor?” saying I would write a blog post about this situation (a blog post I wrote in a post surgery fog also got a lot of attention). The next day, a message was on my home answering machine from a woman who sounded almost incredulous that she was calling- saying my glasses were in.

A sign on the sign-in desk for the optical shop at the VA says:

“Notice to Veterans awaiting Eyeglasses
We apologize that the current wait time for eyeglasses is about 5 weeks.

The Company contracted to manufacture the eyeglasses are not meeting our expected delivery time of 5-10 days.

We are finalizing changes so that our expectations of faster delivery times are met.

We are sorry for the inconvenience.”

I’m pretty sure if I violated a contract with the government, I’d be in prison.

This isn’t the first time a VA contractor has screwed up. Last year, when it was determined that I needed to have my parathyroid gland removed, after months of unnecessary tests including 2 needle biopsies and 2 radioactive scans- despite blood chemistry clearly identifying the issue- I was scheduled for surgery at the Cincinnati VA in July with a specialist. Turns out, he too was a private contractor, and works full time for University of Cincinnati medical center. Contracted for X number of hours with the VA, he sees patients and does surgeries at the Cincy VA only on Thursdays, something like twice a month. When he decided to take a few weeks off in July- they bumped me from my initial consultation, meaning I’d have to go in August- and then wait another month to be operated on. Then, he took a day off- on his VA scheduled day. I wrote both the surgeon and Director Costie again- and here was the summary outcome email back to Costie thanking him after he stepped in on my behalf:

I’m not sure what transpired between you and Cincy.
I’d also sent an email directly to the surgeon through his private practice site.
It said something to the effect of-
“you signed a contract with the VA to operate once a month.
When you take a surgery day off- you don’t just get to bump veterans to the next month- because your private practice comes first.
Veterans didn’t get the choice when they were serving- to say, sorry- I’ll deploy next month, I’m busy.
When you miss a day- you get to do two days the next month. Our veterans deserve your best.”

He came in and apologized to me-
said it was refreshing to see the patient’s perspective. Said he’d been with the VA for 20 years- and this kind of thing still happens- because of a miscommunication- and that maybe I should come work there to help straighten things out. I said I’d pass on the government job- but thanks.

Unfortunately, other veterans don’t have the ability to call bullshit when they see things going wrong, and unfortunately, Congress seems to be so busy pointing fingers that they don’t see the problem either. Accountability means contracts must be enforced at all levels if we truly want to help our veterans- and get our tax dollars’ worth.

I think highly of Director Costie- and I was saddened to hear that he’s going to Phoenix to try to clean up that mess, but the real question is when is the GSA going to be held accountable for securing contracts that are routinely ignored?

Back in 2005, on behalf of my veterans business group, VOB108, now VOBOhio, I wrote a proposal for a GSA EZ schedule to help small businesses have a chance at selling to the federal government. That would be a good start- and possibly allow small businesses a true shot at government contracts- and also, what are the true penalties involved in not performing to contract standards?

Considering new government rules on medicare and medicaid asking for verified outcomes, isn’t it time for the same when hiring contractors for the VA for service delivery to our veterans? And, while we’re at it- how about the same for our Congressmen- when you don’t work and shut down government, you should lose your job and be sent to prison.

 

It pays to be a political donor in Dayton Ohio

Two years, $400,000 in your pocket. This right after you “make a mistake” in tearing down part of a historic building and get an additional $215,000 handed to you on a demolition contract. Only in Dayton Ohio can someone be so lucky so often.

It helps when you donate to the right people in politics, for a long time.

The Five Rivers MetroParks plans to use a $1 million Clean Ohio grant toward the purchase and cleanup of the defunct Larch Tree Golf Course.

That is, if the parks organization carries out the purchase option agreement it signed with owner of the old golf course, Bearcreek Farms, Inc. in Dayton, in February….

Five Rivers would like to turn Larch Tree, an 18-hole golf course property, into conservation land and make it a part of the 360-acre Great Miami Wetland Mitigation Bank conservation area that sits adjacent to the golf course, according to Dave Nolin, Five Rivers director of Conservation….

Montgomery County Auditor’s records show that Bearcreek Farms, Inc. took the old golf course from Steve R. Rauch in June of 2012, the same year the golf course closed due to lack of business. However, Rauch is listed as the incorporator for Bearcreek Farms for records filed in the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.

Rauch bought the property for $600,000 from Financial Services, Inc. in April of 2012.

via Five Rivers MetroParks sets sights on property.

And the old line of “well, we’re using federal dollars to do it” doesn’t cut it- those “Federal dollars” are our tax dollars too. Insider information is being passed to people in advance of government purchases- or, government employees are being told about “opportunities”- you buy this property for this much- and they go ahead and do it. Much like the botched land purchase by the South Transfer Station:

Montgomery County last year paid $475,000 for a parcel of land that sold for $70,000 five months earlier, a price jump the county blames on botched communications with its real estate broker.

The parcel at the northeast corner of Springboro Pike and Cardington Road had been targeted by the county for years yet was snapped up by a newly formed company that then resold it to the county in September 2013 for nearly seven times the price paid the previous March.

via Botched land deal blamed on mixup | www.mydaytondailynews.com.

Of course, both these deals are chump change compared to the raping the citizens of Dayton took on the bad deal with IRG at the Dayton Airport- where the city gave the “developer” a check for $3.5 million and the rights to scrap the assets of the former Emery Air Freight building that was on a guaranteed lease to UPS until 2019. It’s been over three years on that debacle and IRG hasn’t brought any jobs to the site, it now sits unkempt- missing 4 emergency diesel generators, a huge stainless steel fuel farm, a multi-million dollar automated sorting and conveyor system and who knows what else. The term of the deal was 3 years- and no one has demanded performance or the property back.

Anyone who wonders why donors would hand a mediocre city commissioner half a million dollars to run for Mayor- a job that pays $45K a year, should look at deals like this and realize that this is just tithing to the “monarchy of Montgomery County”- the network of mostly democratic office holders who have been taking care of the “Friends and Family” for years- selling out the citizens left and right.

If you wonder how the Arcade – a project we taxpayers put millions into, ended up being sold to Tom Danis for $36K plus a check to former Police Chief Tyree Broomfield for $100,000 to resign.

If you wonder who owned a bunch of properties right in the path of US 35 W that had to be bought and torn down for construction to begin.

If you wonder why demolition is the preferred method of “economic development in Dayton”- etcetera- it’s all because some political donor wrote a check. And as they say- payback is a real mo-fo.

The real reason Boehner wants to privatize the VA

John Boeher wants to privatize the VA, while Gen. Shinseki makes $200K, and the health-care industry donates $265 million to politicians

Apparently the people at the VA don’t donate enough to politicians.

Gen. Eric Shinseki is in charge of the VA, and is a service-disabled veteran. The operation is immense.

one of the nation’s biggest health care systems, a far-flung operation that treats 6.5 million people a year at 151 hospitals and 820 outpatient clinics, with more than 18,000 doctors and an annual budget of more than $57 billion.

The need for care has increased with a surge in the number of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, coming on top of a population of aging veterans who were already straining the capacity of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Improvements in battlefield medicine mean that many service members survive with severe injuries that need treatment after they leave the armed forces….

Q: How big is the Department of Veterans Affairs?

A: The clinics and hospitals serve more than 230,000 veterans a day and deliver care in 85 million appointments a year. The 6.5 million patients treated each year include more than 757,000 whose military service began after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

via History and Context of an Embattled Department of Veterans Affairs – NYTimes.com.

And while heads of local Dayton health networks make upwards of $4 million, to run a much smaller operation- that claims to be a non-profit, and receives well over half of its revenue from the government via Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements- Shinseki makes $200,000 a year- doing his public service job for the taxpayer.

And while mistakes happen in all health care facilities, the latest uproar over delayed care or medical malfeasance has Faux News in an uproar, all medical providers screw up, get sued, lie, cheat and steal, that’s how lawyers make money in this country.

But, when Speaker John Boehner, who served 8 weeks in the Navy before being discharged for a bad back, says he wants to privatize the VA, one has to wonder why?

More than two decades ago, Boehner said he offered an idea that was controversial at the time: Why not privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs?

The idea was soundly rejected by veterans organizations.

Now, in the midst of a sweeping scandal over reports that veterans had died waiting for treatment, Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., said Friday that the idea still has merit.

“I still like the idea and especially now,” he said, but cautioned that “until we understand what’s happening and until we understand whether it can be fixed or how it can be fixed, all veterans seeking care shouldn’t have to wait.”

Boehner, in an exclusive interview with the Dayton Daily News on Friday, said he believes the problems at the VA are “systemic,” and said he is not convinced that having VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resign will fix the problem.

via Boehner wants to privatize the VA.

As a veteran who receives excellent care for myself- and my 87-year-old father, I can only come to one conclusion: VA officials don’t contribute money to political campaigns anywhere near as much as the people who run our private health-care system.

In the 2012 cycle- the health industry ranked sixth in all giving, donating $265,727,881.

56% of the donations went to Republicans, not that it matters. The reality is, money spent on political campaigns by companies that receive public dollars should be banned. This means if you are a defense contractor, a health provider, any company that sucks on the public teat, you shouldn’t be able to buy your way into office with the taxpayers picking up the tab.

Gen. Shinseki isn’t the problem in the first place – if the idiots in government had listened to him, when he warned Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld that the numbers of troops to occupy Iraq would be in the hundreds of thousands and would suffer casualties, we’d have a lot less dead and wounded soldiers.

It’s time to hold Boehner and the rest of Congress responsible for a war that has bankrupted our country, a political system that is corrupt, and a media conglomerate that feasts like vultures on the only truly successful health care-organization in the country when it comes to providing care efficiently- the VA.

Thank you Gen. Shinseki for your service, as a general and as chief of the VA.

Dayton Daily news slanders VA for fun and profit

The latest “news” from the paper that publishes stories about its own meteorologist rescuing a kitten – is that in 13 years, the VA has paid a pittance in settlements and attempts to suggest that the VA is a horribly run institution where veterans die from delayed care.

Of course, the metric that’s missing- the VA doesn’t spend a ton of money with Cox enterprises for advertising like the local private hospitals. When you draw a comparison between just the local yokel hospitals and the entire VA system- it’s comparing watermelons to a tenth of a grain of rice.

The fact that the idiots in Congress have latched onto this story is just further proof that we need IQ tests for our Congress as qualifications to run. That the NYTimes calls this an uproar- is an embarrassment to journalism as well:

The uproar over medical care for military veterans involves one of the nation’s biggest health care systems, a far-flung operation that treats 6.5 million people a year at 151 hospitals and 820 outpatient clinics, with more than 18,000 doctors and an annual budget of more than $57 billion.

The need for care has increased with a surge in the number of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, coming on top of a population of aging veterans who were already straining the capacity of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Improvements in battlefield medicine mean that many service members survive with severe injuries that need treatment after they leave the armed forces….

Q: How big is the Department of Veterans Affairs?

A: The clinics and hospitals serve more than 230,000 veterans a day and deliver care in 85 million appointments a year. The 6.5 million patients treated each year include more than 757,000 whose military service began after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

via History and Context of an Embattled Department of Veterans Affairs – NYTimes.com.

The reality is our private hospital system turns away people every single day for lack of insurance. Billions are paid out in malpractice suits in the private sector- and this is ignoring the fact that many veterans have very serious health conditions due to their military service.

While it’s easy to pick on the VA – by those who have never experienced the system, and that there is always room for improvement, this veteran would suggest that this is just smoke and mirrors distracting Americans from the real failures of the “American Health Care System” that fails many more Americans daily than the VA does in a decade.

The fact that General Shinseki runs a system far bigger than all of Premier Health Partners for less than a tenth of what Premier pays its top dogs, totally escapes the public. The fact that Shinseki, is himself a Service Disabled Veteran who has counted on the VA for care gets overlooked.

Considering that we now have the fewest legislators who have served in the military in our nation’s history, most of them need a real lesson in what public service is.

The VA has been on a massive search for veterans to enroll in its programs- with many veterans unaware that they are eligible for care if they served more than 180 days and have a general or honorable discharge. This manufactured hysteria about failed care isn’t helping the mission or improving the system in a meaningful way.

Our veterans deserve better than being used as fodder for selling newspapers. If someone with integrity exists in journalism today- they’d do a true comparison between this government-run health-care system and the joke of our private one. Dollar for dollar, patient for patient, the VA would win hands down.

Who did you elect? Who you gonna call? Database 102 for Boards of Elections

On Friday, I was talking to Jan Kelly, the director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections. about a form. Trying to figure out how to accurately fill it out- and the cold hard fact was, it requested information that was totally impossible for a voter, or even the person in charge of checking that form to know what the answer was. The correct way to fill this form out was to leave information required blank.

Bad form design aside, how to find the simplest information about who and what we elect, what the qualifications for each and every public office, term dates, forms required, processes to follow are all over the place online- making getting into elected office way more complicated than it has to be. While the axiom of running government like a business is a common crutch for clueless political wannabes, the reality is that even the way to buy elected office is such a convoluted process that if elected office were an online store, it wouldn’t make very many sales.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections has an online portal to tell you if you are registered and where to vote (it’s recently been fixed so that it will even allow those without a middle name to get their information, a flaw identified by this site a few weeks ago) it doesn’t have the ability to tell you all the people who represent you and their offices.

Who represents you?

We often see a little blurb at the end of newspaper articles about how to contact your congressman with their address and phone number, but, who represents you on the State Board of Elections, who is your coroner, your party precinct captain, your county engineer, your state Supreme Court justices? Good luck at finding all that information in one place, yet isn’t this the most fundamental part of a representative democracy?

One of the reasons we have so many elections is because we have so many offices to fill and we’re attempting not to overload and confuse the voters. It’s one of the reasons the big political parties hand out the official “Endorsed candidate slate list” because, frankly, it’s too hard for most voters to fathom who they should vote for in each election without one- especially when the ballot contains candidates like judges who don’t show their party affiliation on the ballot (at least this used to be the case, I’m not even sure of where this stands right now in Ohio).

I also often get calls asking what the qualifications are for office- not just where you have to live, your age, your experience, but what petitions, deadlines, etc., are required to run for U.S. Congress- you don’t actually have to live in the district you are planning to represent, nor do you have to be born in the U.S., but to run for president you have to be born in the U.S. and have to be at least 35. As to how many signatures are required- it depends on if you are running as a candidate of a major political party or not. All these details should be available to each and every voter. For instance, even though it’s not an elected position- you don’t have to be a lawyer or have gone to law school to be on the U.S. Supreme Court- although it’s very unlikely that Congress (a body made up of a lot of lawyers) would ever confirm a non-lawyer to the bench these days, although as recently as 1941 we had a high-school dropout appointed to the bench.

The last justice to be appointed who did not attend any law school was James F. Byrnes (1941-1942). He did not graduate from high school and taught himself law, passing the bar at the age of 23.

via- Supreme Court FAQ

It would seem to me that knowing who represents you, how to contact them, the requirements of the office and the forms to file should all be available to every voter, with a simple look-up of their address, just like they have for where you vote. This should be required by law, across the land, and every effort should be made to simplify and reduce the number of forms (see this page on the Ohio secretary of state’s office for the really long list of required forms: http://www.sos.state.oh.us/sos/elections/electionsofficials/forms.aspx) My really rough count came up at 238 (not including the ones in Spanish).

The SOS site does have a page with a general description of what is voted on in the next election here: http://www.sos.state.oh.us/sos/elections/Voters/whatsontheballot/whatsOnBallot.aspx

There aren’t enough hours in the day, or dollars you could pay me to try to list all the offices from party precinct captains up to POTUS, but I’m pretty sure the list would overwhelm each and every one of you if it was readily accessible. If we want to see any real reduction of government, or better efficiencies via regionalism, this would be an amazing place to start- a simple look-up by address, of every person you are expected to elect, complete with requirements for office, terms, pay, duties and who currently sits in it.

For the closest example of anything remotely like an information page for running for office- see this page from Armstrong County, Pa.: http://www.co.armstrong.pa.us/departments/public-services/elections-votersregistration/running-for-public-office New York state also has a page: http://www.elections.ny.gov/RunningOffice.html

VoteSmart.org has a look-up list that’s semi-useful, but far from complete or up-to-date: http://votesmart.org/search?q=45410&cx=004674700904797117618%3Aiqzskagjgeo&cof=FORID%3A11#.UwnzGl6gaXQ (Gary Leitzell is still Mayor!). Common Cause has an even less complete version here: http://www.commoncause.org/siteapps/advocacy/search.aspx?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=4860375

What do you think?

Bad agendas, hidden agendas, worthless agendas- are all the Party agenda

The Montgomery County Board of Elections is in the basement of the County Administration Building. Basements are notorious as places where it’s damp, dark and mold grows. Slimey mold.

So, despite the claims that the BOE always meets now at 11 a.m. (when they claimed I misrepresented the time of the proper William Pace denial on the ballot meeting)- they are meeting this Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.

And on the MC BOE 02.18.14 Agenda are these three innocuous items:

  • Motion to certify candidate petitions for the Primary Election
  • Motion on candidate’s petitions for the Primary Election that appear questionable
  • Motion on candidate’s petitions for the Primary Election that appear invalid

Notice how there is no list of who may be in trouble? What if the candidate wanted to know if he or she need to be there? To line up the people who signed the petition? Ah, screw you. Screw the sunshine laws. Let’s keep the public in the dark.

If you want a participatory democracy- you do it out in the open, with as much useful information as possible.

#FAIL Montgomery County Board of Elections.

Note, there should have been a document on the website the day petitions were closed, of every candidate who had filed. It didn’t show either. Here it is: MD BOE 2014 primary filed_1 Note- it was sent as a scan of a printout. I had to OCR it to make it accessible. Also missing is the list of Dems filing for Montgomery County Precinct Captains for the Democratic party.

[update] update 4;45pm- the list of precinct captains. Only 5 contested precincts (including mine)  and a lot of empties. 2014 Democrat central committee all [/update]

Ah, if we were all mushrooms, we’d be worth millions- they like to keep us in the dark and feed us $h!t.