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Bad rumblings at the VA

by Dan Burns on July 24, 2018 · 1 comment

A couple of items.

More than a dozen employees in high-level positions at the Department of Veterans Affairs have recently been reassigned to lower-level positions — and a new report says it’s part of a purge by President Donald Trump’s loyalists.
According to the Washington Post, acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke and a small team of Trump political appointees are reshuffling staffers they perceive to be disloyal to Trump and his agenda for the VA, which is responsible for providing health care and other federal benefits to US military veterans.

Last year, the Trump administration insisted that its regressive tax cuts were so important, it was worth adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt to ensure their passage. Now, the White House is warning Congress that the United States cannot afford to add $1.6 billion to the deficit to expand health-care options for veterans.
In a letter (July 16), the Trump administration demanded that lawmakers fund a popular veterans’ health-care program — which allows former troops to spend public funds on private doctors and hospitals — with cuts to other parts of the budget. Democrats, and some top Senate Republicans, prefer to raise the current caps on discretionary spending instead.
(New York Magazine)

I’m pretty sure that the program referenced is the one that lets vets who live far from any VA hospitals to get VA-funded care locally instead.
Comment below fold.

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(This is the last part, at least for now. Part 1 here. Part 2 here.)
My view, based on what I’ve included in this and previous posts, is that U.S. military spending can and should be cut by anywhere from 30-50% over the next decade, and that fixing the bloated mess will actually improve military readiness and capability. Many progressives agree. But military spending is unfortunately one of the few areas where polling does not consistently show strong (often 2:1 or better) support for progressive views. Numbers from one poll to another, that I’ve seen, tend to fluctuate considerably, but on the whole it’s roughly even between those who want cuts and those who don’t.

Next to the claim that casting off the obstructive dead weight and fixing the corruption in military spending will somehow make us more “vulnerable,” defenders of the status quo wail about JOBS! By any rational standard, no one has a “right” to jobs – burning coal, derivatives trading, right-wing propaganda mill idiot, making bombs, etc., etc. – that just screw things up for everyone. There are far better things they could, and should, be doing. This is from an analysis of jobs created per $1B of federal spending, which matches this report:



vetI doubt that will mind if I go ahead and blockquote a big chunk of an email that I got from them.


Earlier this week, “the main arm” of the Koch Brothers’ political network, Freedom Partners, disclosed its political giving for 2014 in their annual tax filing. We thought you’d find this interesting:
They granted $12.7m to Concerned Veterans for America for “General Support.” It was Freedom Partners’ largest gift of the year.
So what are the Koch Brothers’ looking for with their gift to Concerned Veterans of America? It’s simple: The privatization of the veterans’ health care and military retirement plans, organizing for the repeal Obamacare, and dismantling the unions that work within the Department of Veterans Affairs.


Setting up an odious astroturf organization and giving it a name like “Concerned so-and-so” is unfortunately a tried-and-true method for deceiving uninformed and gullible voters who lean conservative, and even some who don’t. Something like “classless” doesn’t fairly describe tactics like that. “Despicable” and “contemptible” are more like it.
The CEO of CVA is Pete Hegseth, who couldn’t even beat Kurt Bills for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in Minnesota in 2012. And whose primary public notoriety now comes from nearly literally sticking an axe into a bystander during an ill-advised publicity stunt. Much more about Hegseth, from Developers are Crabgrass, here.

Comment below fold.


Give vets access to medical marijuana

by Dan Burns on March 6, 2015 · 2 comments

CANNAB~1The obvious problem here (along with the slim chance of getting anything so reasonable through this Congress) is “in states that have legalized medical marijuana.” Since federal law supersedes state law, it should be a relatively simple matter to allow veterans everywhere access. In states where there is no legal distribution network for weed, they can mail it in from elsewhere. Even from Minnesota, before much longer.

If a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers have their way, doctors in states that have legalized medical marijuana will soon be able to recommend the plant to military veterans who suffer from serious injuries and a host of chronic conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Veterans Equal Access Act – reintroduced in the House of Representatives on (February 3) – would give doctors in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) leeway in recommending the use of medical marijuana to military veterans.
The law as it currently stands prohibits VA doctors from advising patients to use cannabis for medical purposes. While more than 20 states allow the medical use of marijuana, only 10 states and Guam authorize doctors to prescribe it as treatment for PTSD.
(Think Progress)

That article references a lack of clinical studies. Plenty of PTSD sufferers say that marijuana helps. That’s all I need to hear.
Comment below fold.


UPDATE — This morning I noticed Lieutenant General Robert Gard, whom Sheila trashed on her blog, was published in Defense One; The Good General’s article is entitled “The One Thing The U.S. Can’t Train The Iraqi Army To Do”. It’s a good read – much better than the divisive tripe Sheila wrote, and it’s an excellent example of why reasonable people don’t need unreasonable people like Sheila Kihne in government. — TPT

Sheila Kihne, Republican Candidate for State Representative (HD48B), had a blog. Two of them, actually. One is still up, it’s called “The Activist Next Door”. The other, picking up where the first left off, is not. Which makes sense; Sheila is mounting a primary challenge on August 12th on the basis of her incumbent’s “record” – and it’s always convenient for a challenger when the incumbent has a record but the challenger does not. A record, like, say, that cute little picture, to the right that adorned Sheila’s blog – “No Liberals Allowed” – which pretty much sums up Sheila.

Except, Sheila DOES have a record – it’s her record of her thoughts that she put into words on her blogs. And through the wonderful technology of The WayBack Machine, all those posts never really went away.

Some of Kihne’s writings are simply bizarre; such as the one where she seems to advocate a voting Poll Tax on poor people, or her “welfare to work” treatise, “My Redistribution Plan”. My personal favorite, from Sheila’s “plan”? Number 5:

5. you will not own any of the following items (if you do, you’ll immediately sell them) an iPod, a flat screen television, video games, a computer or any designer clothing


After all, everyone knows it’s super easy to prepare resumes and find a new and/or better job without a computer, yes?

As bizarre as those ones are, this blogpost jumped out:

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Despicable Senate GOPers stick it to vets

by Dan Burns on February 28, 2014 · 1 comment

imagesCATTX0JV“New low?” it said, in the link to this on Facebook. For Congressional conservatives, “new low” implies an awfully deep, dark, dank hole, but they may indeed have found the bottom, yet again.

Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a bill that sought to provide veterans with greater access to health care and education over an amendment aimed at increasing sanctions on Iran…
After numerous attempts (to get an Iran sanctions measure to the floor) failed, the Senate GOP used Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) veterans’ benefits bill to bring the issue up again but Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) refused to go along. “Republicans say they want to help veterans. They have a strange way of showing it. We introduced a bill that would do just that. Republicans immediately inject partisan politics into the mix, insisting on amendments that have nothing to do with helping veterans,” Reid said on Wednesday.
One of the nation’s largest veterans groups, the American Legion, agreed. “Iran is a serious issue that Congress needs to address, but it cannot be tied to S. 1982, which is extremely important as our nation prepares to welcome millions of U.S. military servicemen and women home from war,” American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said in a statement this week. “This comprehensive bill aims to help veterans find good jobs, get the health care they need and make in-state tuition rates applicable to all who are using their GI Bill benefits.”
…“Veterans don’t have time for this nonsense and veterans are tired of being used as political chew toys,” said (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff, according to the Washington Post.
(Think Progress)

The disconnect from reality is appalling. And hopefully their cavalier attitude toward organizations like the American Legion, which is far, far from liberal in its general outlook, will come back to badly bite them.

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Michele Bachmann greets vets at the World War Two Memorial on the second day of the government shutdown in WashingtonLast week I wrote about the effects SNAP cuts would have Minnesota families. But veteran and active duty military are affected, too.
Republicans never miss an opportunity for a photo standing next to a vet, but they always fail when it comes to helping active duty and vets.
Anyone remember Rumsfeld sending troops into Afghanistan and Iraq without adequate helmet protection? With Humvees that weren’t able to withstand IED explosions? Remember how the Bush Administration narrowed the definition of PTSD and gutted the VA?
Now this:

About 900,000 veterans and 5,000 active duty troops face cuts in their food stamp benefits beginning Thursday as $5 billion is automatically trimmed from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program for low-income families.
“The coming benefit cut will reduce SNAP benefits, which are already modest, for all households by 7 percent on average, or about $10 per person per month,” according to an analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

First of all, it’s a ****ing disgrace that families of active duty soldiers are on SNAP. Secondly, 900,000 people who sacrificed for our country, and many of whom are broken from it, are getting their meager benefits cut?
Here’s what burns me up even more:

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A Preview Of A GOP 2014 Lit Piece

by TwoPuttTommy on April 24, 2013 · 5 comments

250px-Veterans_Home_08I wrote a Community Voices story over at Twin Cities Daily Planet – “Governor’s Office, Legislature at odds over funding for Veterans Home” – because I’m a recipient of a Media Skills Fellowship and I’ll be covering veterans issues. From it:

Long story short: the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis used to be a pit. Among the Home’s campus were old buildings that had not been well maintained along with others that even had they been properly maintained were obsolete anyway. And, a dangerous one. In addition to the deferred maintenance there were problems with care to the point that patients had died. So a plan was put in place, and the turn around began.

Bottom line? There’s a 3 phase plan; phase 1 has been completed. Phase 2 has been funded, but cannot commence until Phase 3 has been funded. So this project to fix a major problem is on hold, because for some reason, the leadership hasn’t figured out what Governor Dayton’s office has: not only is it the right thing to do, it’s political suicide to do the wrong thing and NOT fund it. Right now, in the veteran community, Dayton is a hero. House and Senate leadership? Not so much, to put it mildly….

Here’s a quote from a GOPer on this very subject:

“We started renovation of the Minneapolis home back in 2009,” said Rep. Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake). “Are we really doing what we should be doing for our men and women who have served our country? I really feel that the perception out there that we’re not. We’re putting money into museums, state trails, sculpture gardens, nature centers and so forth. I think our men and women that have served our country over the years really deserve better. … I think we should be looking at finishing that project in Minneapolis and then going forward with some of these other concepts.”

Does anyone really think that if the DFL-led House and Senate pass a bonding bill without funding a project that’s already started that Democrats across the state won’t be seeing lit pieces based on that above quote hitting mail boxes in their districts?

This is an unforced error. And that’s becoming a pattern; just last week The Big E wrote about this one: “First raise the minimum wage”.

Any bets the GOP 2014 Lit Piece on not funding the veterans home will include that one, too?

The House and the Senate need to step up their games, and fast. Funding the veterans home, which includes a large chunk of federal money, is a good start.


“Let’s Do The Time Warp Again!”

The call went out, to far and wide (even Facebook!) for The WingNut Faithful to gather at a bar in Arden Hills (where presumably, they didn’t have to tip because Waitrons make $100,000 a year! for a special, heart-searching event: “MnGOP Panel: Where Do We Go From Here? – What went wrong in 2012, and moving forward in 2013″

And what a panel it was!  “Moderated” by EXTREME right wingers Mitch Berg and Jeff Johnson, Senator Dave Thompson, Walter Hudson, Andy Parrish, Sarah Janecek, Dan “Dac” Severson, Marianne Stebbins and Mark Westphal were the main draws!  

I didn’t go; watching the action on Twitter Hashtags #wdwgfh & #MnGOP13) was entertainment enough for yours truly, the ol’ TwoPutter!

And clearly, these assembled party faithful have not a clue.

Which, for a Progressive, is GREAT news!  But, the best news, is the apparent formation of a “Draft Emmer” clown car – here’s the tweet that clued me in!!!


And here’s the photo in that tweet!

YES!!!  That’s THE ticket!!!

Dear Tom Emmer – I hear Brad Biers is available!  Of course, that might get Brad in a little hot water with his boss….

In all seriousness, I didn’t catch a tweet that got to the nub of what is wrong with today’s scandal-plagued Mn GOP; especially how you couldn’t trust the GOP then, you still can’t now, and tomorrow won’t be any different – “right”, Senator Hann?

For those that are interested in what’s REALLY wrong with today’s GOP, Hamline Professor David Schultz recently penned “The Moral Crisis of the Republican Party”.  I highly recommend those reading this, read it.

Obviously, those in attendence last night hadn’t.

Here’s an example of the candidacy of Tom Emmer in 2010, and why those GOPers that are electable are not endorsable (and those GOPers endorsable are not electable) in today’s MnGOP – via YouTube:  



Filing comes after a week highlighting the need to integrate returning veterans into local workforce

full disclosure- I am a paid staffer for Tarryl Clark

(St. Paul, MN) – Today, Tarryl Clark, former Assistant Majority Leader of the Minnesota State Senate, filed papers to run against Congressman Chip Cravaack to represent the 8th Congressional District. Clark, who is campaigning aggressively across Northeast and Central Minnesota, cited Cravaack’s conservative voting record and failure on jobs as the primary reason for her run for Congress.

“Our region was hit especially hard by the Great Recession and the future of the district depends on investing in good-paying jobs for our middle-class families. But
Congressman Cravaack has been voting against every measure that would bring jobs and economic development to the region,” said Clark.  “Instead of doing what’s best for our seniors, veterans, and families, Cravaack is actively supporting the extreme “Ryan Budget” which aims to cut millions of jobs and devastate our economy even further,” continued Clark.

Clark spent last week highlighting the connection between jobs and Minnesota’s veterans. She participated in events in Duluth, Camp Ripley, Onamia, and Brainerd, talking with voters and veterans about translating the skills veterans develop serving their country into good jobs back home. The week culminated with Clark joining President Obama at Honeywell’s Golden Valley facility, where the President announced his “We Can’t Wait” initiative to help service members with manufacturing training and other high demand skills receive civilian licenses.

“I’m running for Congress because 8th District veterans, children, families, and communities need an advocate in Congress who will invest in the future: good jobs and a secure middle-class. Chip Cravaack is voting against our communities and that’s unacceptable,” concluded Clark.

Tarryl Clark continues to campaign throughout Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District to unseat Freshman Tea Party Congressman Chip Cravaack. Clark’s twenty-four years of work on behalf of Minnesota’s seniors, children, veterans, and families, and unmatched funding make her the strongest candidate to win in November. Since leaving the Minnesota Senate, Clark has served as the national co-chair of the Jobs! 21 Initiative with the Blue-Green Alliance, where she has continued working to create good, sustainable jobs in Minnesota and around the country.