Gullible U.S. Pays $535m for Virtual Training

Picture of Boy-with-Binoculars

Traditionally U.S. armed forces focused on insurgency, counterinsurgency (COIN) and stabilizing operations. Only since the turn of the century has the U.S. military began to focus heavily on COIN as a major strategy for combating 21st century enemies. In dealing with its enemies and potential enemies the U.S. has the luxury of knowing its military capability is vastly superior to that of any other military power on the planet. Because of this superiority foes have chosen to use unconventional warfare combining ancient frontal war, and modern technology with insurgency and terrorism when confronting American forces or allies.

Because war and conflict are inevitable, military leaders have recommended preparing their troops for nonconventional warfare. And to pivot military focus from the Middle East to Asia because competition, tensions and the changing economic situation of nations will likely lead to war and conflict in that region. With the possibility of soldiers having to operate in two theatres of war the military is looking to broaden its members training because skillsets needed in the middle east would be vastly different than those needed in Asia. Because of the changing dynamics of war, required training in both the Army & Marine Corps will include gaming and virtual training.

In an effort to decrease training costs the Army decided to move from live combat training to that of virtual training. During a recruitment session recruits were treated to virtual & gaming training, while engaged some recruits said the training was like being high, invincible and Rambo at the same time. One recruit said I never knew killing could be so much fun, do heads really splatter like that when you shoot them in the head asked one recruit? The response was try this set, it has virtual families, see what you can do to them, mow the grass or trim the bushes. Either way you can become an expert with this half a $ billion set of virtual tools we just purchased from Hussein Virtual Express Game Makers.

More can be found at http://www.navair.navy.mil/nawctsd/pdf/TSIS-JUN-2017.pdf and at http://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1182871/civilians-gain-leadership-warfighter-support-skills-through-program/ and at http://www.eielson.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1173704/believe-the-unbelievable-exercise-northern-edge-17-enhances-interoperability-wi/ and at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-636 and at http://www.gao.gov/duplication/action_tracker/Army_and_Air_Force_Virtual_Training/action1#t=3 and at http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/679104.pdf

The U.S. Pushes to Increase Global Coal Use

Picture of Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen

Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Representative Rodney P. Frelinghuysen said “This bill will target funding to where it’s needed the most, ensure U.S. dollars are being put to good  use to expand democracy and peace and provide critical humanitarian assistance in war-torn, disaster-affected, and impoverished areas of the world”. That’s nice, high five for the words.

The quote is taken from the July 2017 press release of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations. In reviewing the fiscal year 2018 State and Foreign Operations Bill it becomes obvious where U.S. priorities lie. What gets funded is important whereas what doesn’t get funded is unimportant. So, let’s take a quick snapshot of what’s unimportant.

The bill cuts Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding, Operations funding for the State Department and global diplomatic funding. Reduces funding to the United Nations (UN) and various other affiliated organizations. The bill continues reductions for OCO international security assistance, funding to the USAID Office of the Inspector General and programs regarding proper management & review of the appropriate use of U.S. funding.

The bill continues with reductions in OCO funding for bilateral economic assistance to foreign countries, cuts funding to international organizations and banks and doesn’t include funding for Green Climate, International Debt Relief, Panel on Climate Change and The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and more. The bill does provide funding for rolling back coal regulations allowing coal-fired projects to be conducted by U.S. companies in foreign communities with the justification of taking cost effective, good quality technology to developing nations.

Alas the bill continues funding Israeli projects while cutting funding to Palestinian causes. These changes can be viewed as good or bad depending on who’s doing the viewing. It seems funding for good causes are down while funding for war, occupations, criminalizing commoners, reducing education, protecting state & corporate rights is up. Aside from buying coal stock, I’d like to know where do I sign up to benefit from the other changes that are to the detriment of other nations?

More can be found at https://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=394988 and at https://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/bills-115hr-sc-ap–stateforop-fy2018stateforeignoperationsappropriations.pdf

V.A. Transparency Questions Hiring Practices

Picture of VA Secretary David Shulkin

In an effort to displace negative press surrounding the Veterans Administration (VA) Trump appointee Secretary David Shulkin has been hard at work creating a culture of transparency, accountability and cluelessness within the Veterans Administration. After many hours of reviewing the VA’s mission, goals and objectives Shulkin and other officials decided an adverse employee action list would suffice to fix the agencies transparency and image woes.

The action list highlights questionable hiring practices. In fact, the list starkly resembles a prison rap sheet based on its inhabitants. The list reveals VA actions towards employee transgressions. Upon review of the list one cannot help but wonder why there are so many disciplinary actions. If the VA were only hiring convicts the actions would be understandable. But all new hires are interviewed and vetted, so why are such a high level of disciplinary actions needed?   

According to Secretary Shulkin highlighting disciplinary actions is intended to be a small step in the direction he wants to take the administration. It’s widely agreed this is a small step, in fact so small there isn’t a name for such a small measure. When addressing colleagues and his workforce Shulkin said “my fellow convicts and employee convicts, we must pretend and continue pretending we want improvement. All our image woes are because of you the employee, not leadership, that’s why I’m getting a bonus and you’re getting the shaft”.  

More can be found at https://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2927 and at https://www.va.gov/accountability/Adverse_Actions_Report.pdf

U.S. Continues Backdoor Tactics for Destroying Countries

Picture of Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan

Organization of American States (OAS) was established in 1948 (signage in Bogota`), however the charter didn’t enter into force until December 1951. The organization has ties dating back to 1889 when its existence was more informal. OAS includes 35 independent states whose main interests are promoting democracy, human rights, security and improving developmental opportunities for its members. Tools used to accomplish these interests are dialogue, politics, mutual cooperation, legal systems and other lesser tools.

The unwritten purpose of the organization is to oppose Communism and dictatorships. While promoting U.S. interests and to spread U.S. style democracy. Of note Cuba is a member of this organization although its government has been excluded in the Inter-American system since 1962. The U.S. has used this agency to violate the sovereignty of many nations while promoting its agenda. Recently U.S. Senators expressed concerns OAS behavior seems to have a new goal of undermining other nation’s governments and their people while placing U.S. interests above these nations.

According to Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah the organization abuses its power and there are many examples of power abuse. However, in recent speeches and press conferences many U.S. politicians have touted the good work of the OAS. Recently the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has called into question the OAS stance on several issues, notably their abstaining from key meetings involving human rights.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan in a speech to the General Assembly in Cancun (June 19-20) on behalf of the OAS said our exploitation and government overthrow goals are finally being met. That is except in Venezuela, where our receipts have slowed, for this they must be punished. He continued we’re the good guys; we must exploit to change behavior. In short, our goal is control, we’re getting better at it and expect less resistance from countries in future endeavors. He concluded, why fire a shot when economic assassination is more effective, lucrative and fun, after all it ensures ownership of a people and their country for generations.

More can be found at https://www.lee.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2017/6/america-first-in-the-americas  and at http://www.oas.org/en/spa/default.asp and at https://blogs.state.gov/stories/2017/06/23/en/week-state-june-23-2017 and at https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/06/272063.htm and at https://usoas.usmission.gov/

Worker Cancer Protections Slated for Scrapping

Picture of cartoon miner

Beryllium is a toxic metal stronger than that of steel. Its uses are varied, it can be found in the aerospace, manufacturing, medical, defense and other industries. The metal is grey in form and a little heavier than paper or foil. It’s heavily mined in the U.S. and purchased abroad. Because of its properties and ability to be mixed with other alloys it has grown to be a highly sought after material. It comes in three primary forms as a natural metal, as an alloy and oxide.

According to the Department of Labor (DOL) which is one of the Executive Offices of the President, tens of thousands of workers are exposed to the hazards of Beryllium poisoning each year. In addition, families of exposed workers are susceptible to cross contamination as well. For decades the DOL has sought to reduce workers exposure to contamination which can occur by inhaling or by physical contact. Exposure reduction efforts have been in the form of legislation and guidelines suggesting and requiring maximum exposure limits not be exceeded within certain specified time periods.

When exposure occurs fatal diseases including lung cancer are possible. In January 2017 the DOL was to make a final decision on protections required to safeguard workers. The initial decision was to toughen standards further protecting workers because of a new understanding of the toxicity and likely contamination inherit in Beryllium usage. However, the new suggested standards were postponed again (May 2017) by request. A new ruling is due to occur late August, in the interim the administration’s recommending no rule changes.

The suggestion is to leave current limits in place because if workers are still alive protections aren’t needed. The sentiment is that no one should complain until dead. According to the administration workers shouldn’t complain until death occurs. When dead the administration will allow lawsuits to proceed if brought on by the dead worker only. So, when zombie workers become a reality they’ll look into changing the exposure limits to safeguard employees from toxic exposure, until then workers should be happy to be employed.  

More can be found at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/beryllium/index.html and at https://www.osha.gov/berylliumrule/ and at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/06/27/2017-12871/occupational-exposure-to-beryllium-and-beryllium-compounds-in-construction-and-shipyard-sectors and at https://www.osha.gov/news/newsreleases/national/06232017

What Government needs Ethics

Picture Congressman Stephen Lynch

At the federal level the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) is responsible for executive branch compliance to ethics rules. In January 2017 the Trump Administration complied with standing ethics norms by issuing an executive order committing appointees to follow ethics rules. This order mandated all appointees in any executive agency sign a binding contract that would control their behavior while in and for 5 years after leaving office (lobbying rules).

Since signing the executive order the administration has back tracked on the ethics signing requirement for appointees. Because of this over a dozen Congressional members have spoken out against this change of policy. Citing how this breaks with precedence and creates a climate of mistrust, secrecy and unaccountability. Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-Boston) said this climate would not be tolerated while introducing the “White House Ethics Transparency Act” which would mandate ethic waivers are disclosed for this and future administrations.

Upon seeing the new bill Congressional Republicans said “instead of draining the swamp we’re making the water deeper. Americans took the bait, now they’re drowning but we promise for the next election to throw a life raft”. Democrats responded we understand they’re ripping of the electorate like we did this just doesn’t feel good. In a joint press conference Democrats and Republicans sang look at our bling, our pockets are getting phatter, it feels good to sing with my bling.

More can be found at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/28/executive-order-ethics-commitments-executive-branch-appointees and at https://lynch.house.gov/press-release/rep-lynch-introduces-white-house-ethics-transparency-act and at https://oge.gov/web/OGE.nsf/All%2BAdvisories/5B5DECAECCE6CB8185258110007ADC76/$FILE/PA-17-02.pdf and at https://www.warren.senate.gov/files/documents/2017_04_20_Letter_to_the_President_on_Ethics_Waivers_and_WH_Logs.pdf

Don’t Age or Count on Social Security (SS)

Cartoon of a grandma in chair

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued options or recommendations for reducing the federal deficit from 2017 thru 2026. CBO is a nonpartisan agency made up of economists and budget analysts. The agency formed in 1974 and follows requirements outlined in the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. CBO does not make policy recommendations. In this latest report it proposed options for deficit reductions and revenue increases. The report to Congress recommends 115 changes needed to reduce deficit growth.

SS is an earned income benefit program, meaning its revenue comes from FICA otherwise known as payroll taxes. By law SS can’t increase the federal deficit because its sourcing comes directly out of the General Treasury Fund. However, benefits are growing and lawmakers are raiding and relocating funding to other special interest projects. Current policy mandates employees and employers pay directly into FICA. Large employers and other wealthy stakeholders have lobbied and pushed forward agendas to reduce SS benefits and outlays.  

CBO recommendations push forward the idea of needing to reduce benefits. Recommendations are to link benefits to prices not income, raise retirement age, reduce benefits, require more working years and require future recipients to hold their breath for weeks, not need to eat and to live 200 years without medical treatment. Conservative seniors in California won’t receive benefits because Liberals will take them. In a last push to reduce SS benefits seniors will be placed on one way flights to the moon. More can be found at https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52142

House Republicans Disgusted with Trumps Administration

Picture of Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers R-WA 150x150

For Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and other party members the Republican “Six Big Ideas” plan is hanging in the balance. Amongst Trumps never ending drama Republicans see distraction as the new normal. The political climate demonstrates Congress nor can the Executive Branch accomplish much in a distraction laden environment.

In fact a republican house floor sweeper was overheard (listening device left from the Obama Administration) saying there’s a lot more shit in these corridors for me to pick up with this new administration.

Republicans want to focus on “The American Dream”, ” National Security”, “Bailouts”, “Executive Power”, “Obamacare Replacement” and “Tax Reform.” With this new agenda in hand Republicans have created a “Better Way Booklet” for all Americans to read and pledge too.

On The American Dream, Republicans want lower wage work and lower wage jobs expanded, to increase crime legislation and remove voting rights, reduce school programs, increase national debt and demand taxpayers pay for it.

On National Security, Republicans want to give more terrorists weapons, fight more proxy wars, create more terrorist threats and reduce freedom around the world.

On the Economy and Bailouts, Republicans want to remove regulations, expand coal and oil usage, increase privatizing profits and nationalizing loss, but wait there’s more, they want to increase student debt, remove net neutrality laws and change tort law to benefit corporations.

On Executive Power, Republicans want limited power when democrats are in office and expanded powers when Republicans are in office, except Donald Trump.

On Obamacare, Republicans want more sick and dying, according to an undisclosed source House Republicans can reduce the budget, improve environmental conditions by allowing more Americans to die that don’t have health coverage.

On Tax Reform, Republicans want more complexity, corporate and executive write offs, no more mortgage deductions and a flat tax. Maybe this plan is a Democrat and Republican cooperative, it resembles their actions over the last few decades? More can be found at https://www.gop.gov/six-big-ideas-better-way-agenda/

Governor’s Bill to expand Wiretapping Law because everyone must be considered a Suspect

Picture of Boston Mass Governor Charlie Baker 150x150

Mass. Governor Charlie Baker’s proposed new wiretapping legislation will effectively make it legal to wiretap grandma and grandpa. The proposed bill will update Commonwealth wiretap laws. These new laws will give “law enforcement the power to criminalize all Bostonians” in order to meet needed quotas said Gov. Baker in a press release.

In a separate statement Lt. Gov. Karyn Pollto said these massive intrusion powers are needed to keep citizens safe from harm. And in no way will this government inappropriately spy on its citizens even though authorized to do so. Secretary of Public Safety and Security Dan Bennett said we’re the good guys; with expanded power like this we’ll keep protecting corporations because it’s the right thing to do.

Despite the rhetoric this proposed change expands designated offenses that will fall under wiretap law, expands Superior Court authority, allows additional 30 days wiretap without renewal application and allows wiretap trolling for crime that hasn’t or may never occur.

This new tool has been requested for years by various Attorney Generals and Police Commissioners, in a joint conference Attorney General Maura Healey and Commissioner William Evans said “the Industrial Prison Complex wins – score one for the good guys.” More can be found at http://www.mass.gov/governor/press-office/press-releases/fy2017/administration-proposes-bill-to-update-wiretap-law.html