Another Obama Administration Scandal Erupts - This Time at the VA

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Last week proved to be just another week for the Obama Administration, as another scandal unfolded. The Veteran Affairs controversy blew up, as word leaked out that up to forty veterans had died while waiting for healthcare at VA facilities in Phoenix. According to several whistleblowers, thousands of patients were placed on a secret list by hospital administrators, while hospital staff were apparently falsifying data to make it appear that wait-times had improved. If patients died while on the secret lists, their names were quietly removed.

President Obama declared his anger over the dust-up, and said that he had learned about the problem just recently through media reports. But Obama was aware of long-standing delays at VA hospitals for years, and was even briefed on the possibility that wait times were not accurate back in 2009. The Washington Times reported that VA officials told the Obama transition team: “This is not only a data integrity issue in which [Veterans Health Administration] reports unreliable performance data; it affects quality of care by delaying — and potentially denying — deserving veterans timely care.”

Back in 2007, then Senator Obama used his time on the Senate Committee for Veteran’s Affairs to announce the formation of a National Veterans Advisory Committee. The committee would include veterans from various foreign wars, and would advise him on the challenges that veterans faced at home. While announcing the new committee, Obama said: “After seven years of an Administration that has stretched our military to the breaking point, ignored deplorable conditions at some VA hospitals, and neglected the planning and preparation necessary to care for our returning heroes, America’s veterans deserve a President who will fight for them not just when it’s easy or convenient, but every hour of every day for the next four years.”

While President Obama was claiming ignorance of the VA problems, Democratic leaders were in full damage control mode. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters that these problems were rooted in President Bush’s two lengthy wars, and that he was at fault. And President Obama made similar statements to the press, including: “these are the fruits of a decade at war.” But in reality, the vast backlog and strain on the VA system is coming from Korean and Vietnam veterans, who are older and require considerable more care. The true problems were systemic in nature, and were ignored for too long.

USA Today reported that a big part of the backlog involves benefit claim denials, which can take years to appeal. Many cases involve simple reporting errors, errors in diagnosis, improperly filled out forms, and missing medical records. Over 350,000 older veterans (from previous wars) have outstanding appeals pending, with most averaging nineteen months to resolve. Even a simple appeals case takes an average 562 days, according to VA spokesman Walinda West.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has been under heavy fire from bipartisan opponents, who feel that his lack of leadership is partly to blame. Shinsecki said he was proud of the reduced backlog in benefit claims and will keep pushing for the department to improve. He told reporters: "As I testified before Congress on May 15, I take any allegations about patient safety or employee misconduct very seriously. The reports of veterans' negative experiences while seeking VA care are of great personal concern to me."   Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel kept his support with Secretary Shinsecki, but told CBS News that “someone has to be accountable.”

It certainly isn’t a lack of funding that is behind the problems. VA spending has doubled in the last decade to $140 billion in 2013, and has increased nearly 34% just during the Obama presidency. It is the largest government employer behind the Defense Department, with over 300,000 civilian personnel.

Much like the Obamacare fiasco, the problems with the VA are rooted in bureaucracy. Republicans have warned that these systemic problems with the VA are merely a view to the future – when government controls everyone’s healthcare. Rationed care, denial of service, and a lack of accountability are prevalent in the VA – and certain future consequences of government healthcare. President Obama’s campaign promise of a “moral obligation” to care for veterans has proven to be mere political rhetoric. Just as his many promises for Obamacare have proven to be nothing but mistruths.


john Doe Prosecutors Given Epic Smackdown

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US District Judge Rudolph Randa leveled an epic body-blow to the entire John Doe prosecution team last week, when he ruled that the investigation should be shut down immediately. Wisconsin Club for Growth, one of the conservative groups targeted by the two year old John Doe investigation, had filed suit against Milwaukee DA John Chisholm, John Doe Prosecutor Francis Schmitz, and Government Accountability Board investigator Dean Nickel – over First Amendment and civil rights violations. In his ruling, Judge Randa determined:

“The defendants must cease all activities related to the investigation, return all property seized in the investigation from any individual or organization, and permanently destroy all copies of information and other materials obtained through the investigation.” He finished his remarks with a final smack-down, saying: "Plaintiffs and others are hereby relieved of any and every duty under Wisconsin law to cooperate further with Defendants‘ investigation. Any attempt to obtain compliance by any Defendant or John Doe Judge Gregory Peterson is grounds for a contempt finding by this Court.”

The remarkable ruling caused a shockwave across the country, highlighting the partisan nature of the John Doe investigation and underscoring the lack of merit on a number of levels. First and foremost, the ruling followed up on the decision earlier this year by Judge Gregory Peterson (the judge presiding over the John Doe) to quash subpoenas issued by the prosecution. Peterson ruled that the subpoenas: “do not show probable cause that the moving parties committed any violations of the campaign finance laws.” Indeed, Judge Randa concluded as well that the targets of the John Doe investigation appear to have the constitutional right to engage in the activities that they are being investigated of.

In addition, Judge Randa served notice that it was “likely” that the John Doe team had violated the civil rights of conservative groups through the investigation, and that those conservative groups would prevail in the lawsuit. He also made clear the need for urgency in dealing with the alleged violations, since we were in an election year – and a continuing investigation was likely to impact the results. Critics of the John Doe investigation have alleged all along that the prosecution was not really looking for wrongdoing or illegal acts. They were simply utilizing the process to hamstring the efforts of conservative groups, and tamp down their fundraising and advocacy capabilities during the election season.

The prosecution quickly sought a stay of Judge Randa’s ruling, and got one the next day from the US Court of Appeals. In part, the Court of Appeals ruled that Judge Randa had not yet determined the status of the prosecutors’ appeal in the case, and that he needed to rule on that first. Showing his sense of urgency, Judge Randa immediately declared the prosecutors’ appeal “frivolous” - saying: “To be clear, the Court is absolutely convinced that the defendants’ attempt to appeal this issue is a frivolous effort to deprive the Court of its jurisdiction to enter an injunction. The Court’s forbearance in allowing the defendants to raise these issues cannot and should not deprive the Court of jurisdiction to enter an injunction in this case.”

The Appeals Court did stay Judge Randa’s ruling to destroy /or return all documents, until the prosecution team’s overall appeal had been decided.

However this case finally gets decided is still unknown, but it’s clear that Judge Randa did his research and cited numerous case law in his decision against the John Doe team. He clearly indicated the direction that this case would likely go, and that prosecution members could find themselves held personally responsible for their actions.

The case also highlighted the unique nature of John Doe investigations in Wisconsin, and how they can be high-jacked by partisan officials to target their opponents. In this case, conservative groups were targeted by Democratic officials, had their property seized, and were gagged (by court order) to keep from talking about it. If it wasn’t for the actions of James O’Keefe (and Club For Growth) to defy the gag order and speak out against the John Doe targeting, we may never have seen these developments occur.   Hopefully, the Wisconsin legislature will take up John Doe reform in the next session, to offer much needed protection from these abusive tactics.




Koch Brothers versus George Soros, Tom Steyer, etc.

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Koch Brothers Versus George Soros, Tom Steyer, etc.

When Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) went on the Senate floor to decry the Koch Brothers as “un-American”, he revealed the Democratic strategy for holding on to power through the 2014 elections. On two separate occasions, he gave speeches decrying the influence of the conservative Koch Brothers in electing candidates and drawing attention to conservative issues. The strategy was clear – vilify the Koch Brothers and the 1%ers, and attempt to limit their potential influence.

Democrat candidates have kicked their fundraising efforts into high gear, using the billionaire Koch Brothers as “straw men” to frighten potential donors. Emails consistently decry the nearly unlimited money that the conservative Koch Brothers might throw in to oppose the candidacy of Democrats around the country. Campaigns use the tactic – with considerable success, to build up their own war chests to attack opponents.

Media sources have also blasted the efforts of the Koch Brothers to use their personal wealth to influence elections and steer national policy. Ed Schultz, Huffington Post, MSNBC, and others often accuse them of undue influence, and then promote the idea of publicly financed elections – to get the money out of politics.

But while the witch-hunt continues almost daily over the Koch Brothers, media sources and Democratic legislators are unusually quiet about the money provided by liberal billionaires like George Soros and Tom Steyer. Soros has helped liberal candidates for years, and has donated generously to left-wing causes like Media Matters, Air America, and American Bridge to 21st Century (a Super PAC which does opposition research for Democratic candidates). Soros’s donations to socialist and left-wing organizations have provided undue influence on American elections for years – yet the media is awkwardly silent about him and his money.

And liberal billionaire Tom Steyer was recently in the news, after he vowed to spend upwards of $100 million on candidates that promised to oppose the Keystone Pipeline and promote green initiatives. Steyer’s hypocrisy is almost boundless, considering that he made a great deal of his fortune investing in coal industries and other fossil fuel endeavors. But since his current projects involve solar companies and other “green” enterprises, he stands to make a great deal of money if the Keystone Pipeline never gets approved and the US government continues its push for more green energy.

In fact, the recent decision by the Obama Administration to delay any approval/denial of the Keystone Pipeline until AFTER the 2014 elections was almost immediate payback to Steyer for his spending promise. Yet the mainstream media has avoided discussing Steyer’s offer to Democrats, or the undue influence that it will undoubtedly have. And they certainly were not going to link the Administration’s Keystone decision to Steyer, lest they actually bring up an obvious conflict of interest that would look poorly on the current Administration.

What is obvious is that Democrats are running scared over the prospects for electoral victory in 2014. They see the polls and know that history does not favor the party in power in an off-year election – especially during a second term. They know that the Koch Brothers have been successful in the initiatives that they have funded, and that the only way to defend against it is to go on offense. Their strategy is effective because Democrats know the media will not point out the hypocrisy of their actions, and will blindly repeat their accusations. And they can continue to take millions in cash from liberal billionaires – while decrying the money spent by conservatives.

The panic and frustration that is evident in Democratic campaigns this year will ultimately be proven right or wrong in November. Has the US electorate finally had enough of the constant lies coming out of the Obama Administration – and will it impact the election? Will the Obamacare debacle and the costs thrust upon Americans finally tip the scale toward a new direction? Current polling says it will.

But Republicans have a long history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and allowing their opponents to hold power. If they allow the Democrats (and the media) to effectively silence the Koch Brothers, they will certainly help the Democrats’ cause. They must answer the strategy by pointing out the obvious hypocrisy being shown in Democratic campaigns. Money and politics are unequivocally intertwined, and it will always have an impact. Recent Republican success has terrified the Democrats and November could not come soon enough.


BLM Backs Down After Reid Connection Revealed

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bundy ranch conflict

The Bureau of Land Management backed down from the escalating controversy in the Clark County NV desert, just a day after the revelation of documents linking Senator Harry Reid to the BLM actions. BLM officials released nearly 400 cattle that belonged to rancher Cliven Bundy, that had been “confiscated” while grazing on federal lands. And though the officials claimed that the cattle were released to ease tensions with a growing militia presence on and near Bundy’s ranch, their release came soon after internet news sites released documents showing Reid’s involvement.

A Reuters news report from 2012 detailed the involvement of Senator Reid and his son Rory Reid in bringing a $5 billion solar farm and production facility to the Nevada desert. The venture was being financed by Chinese energy firm ENN Energy group, and was being represented by Rory Reid - who had previously been Chairman of the Clark County Commission. Senator Reid was one of the project’s biggest advocates, after recruiting ENN Energy to develop solar energy in Nevada during a 2011 trip to China.

During the nearly two week long conflict, BLM officials purged information from their website that linked the need to remove grazing cattle from the Gold Butte desert area. This is exactly where Bundy and his family’s ancestors have been cattle ranching for over 140 years. One of the key points purged from the BLM website included the comment: “Non-Governmental Organizations have expressed concern that the regional mitigation strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone utilizes Gold Butte as the location for offsite mitigation for impacts from solar development, and that those restoration activities are not durable with the presence of trespass cattle.” The Free Republic website reposted the information after the BLM deleted it, bringing to light the “Reid” connection.

Bundy is the last remaining cattle rancher in Clark County, and had been paying federal “grazing fees” for years - before halting the payments in protest to the dramatic fee increases. BLM officials withdrew Bundy’s grazing permits and claimed that he owes over $1 million in grazing fees, though Bundy insists the true amount is roughly $300,000.

BLM officials and Clark County Sheriffs descended on the Bundy ranch beginning in early April, claiming to be there to protect the environment of the “desert tortoise.” They came in force with over 200 personnel armed to the teeth, including automatic weapons, surveillance equipment, helicopters and other vehicles. BLM “troops” then rounded up Bundy’s cattle and removed them to a nearby staging area. This caused local citizens to protest the BLM’s actions, claiming that federal overreach had trampled too far on individual rights. As news of the BLM cover-up spread across the country, militiamen and states-rights advocates made the trek to the Bundy ranch to register their outrage.

Too further add controversy, BLM Director Neil Kornze had previously been Harry Reid’s senior advisor, and was appointed to the Bureau post just as the Bundy raid started. Media outlets have suggested that it was Kornze who directed BLM staff to purge the website of the controversial information.

Either way, the raid on Bundy’s ranch brought to light the many concerns about the rights of individuals (and the states), versus the growing power and force of the federal government. Do ranchers have any rights to graze cattle where their families have done so for centuries – or does a high priced solar project trump them? On that same note, do homeowners near the US border being inundated with illegal immigrants have any recourse - when the federal government has all but stopped enforcing immigration laws?

Perhaps the BLM backed down from taking Bundy’s cattle in order to prevent another catastrophe – like the events at the Branch Davidian compound in Texas or Ruby Ridge, ID. There was certainly growing evidence that individual citizen protesters (some armed) were not going to stand idly by while the BLM continued to round up Bundy’s cattle. Fear over federal overreach has spread across the country, causing many to support state militias and other groups protesting against government interference.

Or maybe the BLM backed off due to the black eye they received - when internet sources made the connection to Harry Reid. If that is the case, then the odds are they will come back when the issue dies down, to finish the job they started. With major media outlets all but ignoring the “Reid” connection, this is a distinct possibility.

Either way, the growing distrust of the federal government is going to erupt somewhere, someday. The actions of the Obama Administration is making that all but certain.


Obama Administration Moves to Minimize Military Power

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At a 2012 press briefing held at the Pentagon, President Obama remarked that “the tide of war is receding." He was referring to the wind-down of military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his desire to provide fewer resources to the Defense Department. These words were justification for Obama’s budget plan to reduce America’s defensive power, and put an end to the United State’s longstanding objective to be able to fight two wars at one time.  

Republican responses were quick and to the point, exemplified by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) – the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. McKeon said Obama’s plan was "a lead-from-behind strategy for a left-behind America. The president has packaged our retreat from the world in the guise of a new strategy to mask his divestment of our military and national defense. This strategy ensures American decline in exchange for more failed domestic programs."

Since these plans were announced nearly two years ago, President Obama has cut the Defense Department budget whenever possible, and replaced a more pro-military Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta with a much more dovish Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Hagel presented his first budget recently, which included cutting the entire fleet of A-10 Thunderbolts – the only plane in the US arsenal capable of providing close-air support to ground troops. The A-10 was designed in the 70’s to attack Soviet tanks in case of a European invasion, which the Administration felt was “not relevant” anymore. With Russia’s recent actions in Crimea and a buildup of troops along the Ukraine border, it seems a poor decision.

Hagel’s budget also calls for a steep reduction in Tomahawk missiles next year, and a complete end to purchases in 2016. The Tomahawk missile is known as the world’s most advanced cruise missile, and the US Navy has no current model set to replace it. Also cut from the Navy’s budget is the highly regarded Hellfire missile, a system the Navy has heavily relied on. Responding to the cuts, Seth Cropsey of the Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower said: “If someone were trying to reduce the US’s ability to shape events in the world, they couldn’t find a better way than depriving the US fleet of Tomahawks. It’s breathtaking.”

Finally, Hagel proposes to reduce the Army’s troop size to 440,000-450,000 troops – a force last seen in 1940 prior to WWII. With cuts in housing allowances, health benefits, and direct compensation, the budget strikes hard at the personnel component of the Defense Department.

These reductions in America’s military superiority come at the same time that the world is becoming a more dangerous place. China has increased defense spending dramatically (12% this year alone), Russian actions with its neighbors have all of Europe on edge, and Iran is closing in on nuclear capabilities. Additionally, North Korea is test firing new missiles, peace talks have collapsed in Syria, and Al’Qaeda has increased its capabilities dramatically. In recent congressional testimony, Senator John McCain told Hagel: "your timing is exquisite in submitting a bare-bones budget plan at a time when the world is probably more unsettled than it has been since the end of World War II.”

Since the beginning of his presidency, Obama has made clear that America’s role as the lone superpower was one he is uncomfortable with - and he has moved to lessen our role internationally. His Defense Secretary (Hagel) told the press at a Pentagon briefing last month: “we are entering an area where American dominance in the seas, in the sky, and space can no longer be taken for granted.” And he believes that money cut from the Defense will help in funding the massive spending increases domestically, (primarily in welfare and entitlement programs).

When House Armed Services Committee Chairman McKeon was blasting Obama’s plans back in 2012, he was quite prescient. McKeon said that "in order to justify massive cuts to our military, Obama has revoked the guarantee that America will support our allies, defend our interests and defy our opponents. The president must understand that the world has always had, and will always have, a leader. As America steps back, someone else will step forward."

If not America, do we want to know who that will be?


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