Month: March, 2016
Over 125,000 veterans denied benefits by the VA – report

https://www.rt.com/usa/337827-va-denies-veterans-benefits/

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Tens of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with less-than-honorable discharges, many with physical and mental injuries, were being denied care by the Department of Veterans Affairs, claims a new report by a veterans’ advocacy group.

“The VA created much broader exclusion criteria than Congress provided, failing to give veterans due credit for their service to our country,” said the report by advocacy group Swords to Plowshares, published on Wednesday.

Under the 1944 GI Bill, Congress expanded eligibility for veteran benefits to almost all veterans, even those with less-than-honorable discharges, provided the misconduct was not so severe that it should have led to a trial by court-martial and a dishonorable discharge. Congress left open the door to benefits for spectrum of discharges between honorable and dishonorable, including “undesirable” and “other than honorable.”

The report found the VA labeled 90 percent of veterans with bad paper discharges as “dishonorable,” even though the military classified them differently.

“The VA’s board and vague regulations are contrary to law and create a system that does not work for the VA or for veterans… and stops the agency from effectively addressing the national priorities of ending veteran suicide and homelessness,” said the report.

Veterans with bad paper discharges were more likely to have mental health conditions and were twice as likely to commit suicide, the report found. They are also more likely to be homeless and involved with the criminal justice system.

“Yet, in most cases, the VA refuses to provide them any treatment or aid,” said the group.

The New York Times cited the example of Joshua Bunn, a US Marine Corps veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. His unit served in “one of the bloodiest valleys in Afghanistan,” killing hundreds of enemy fighters and losing more Marines than any other battalion that year.

Haunted by nightmares and becoming suicidal after the deployment, Bunn was hospitalized when he got home from Afghanistan. Subjected to hazing by his unit, he was denied help and ran away from his base in California. The USMC charged him with misconduct and gave him a less-than honorable discharge. As a result, he was denied benefits by the VA.

For the first time, the Swords to Plowshares report compared 70 years of data from the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs and found that over 125,000 veterans were unable to access basic benefits including healthcare, disability compensation and homeless assistance – even though the VA had never completed an evaluation of their service.

It also found the VA excluded from benefits 6.5 percent of veterans who served since 2001, compared to 2.8 percent who served in Vietnam and 1.7 percent who served in World War II.

“It has gotten worse with every generation, and it appears to hit the veterans Congress intended to protect,” Bradford Adams, a lawyer and one of the report’s authors told The New York Times. “They knew these folks had been through combat, and wanted to make sure they had help. The VA doesn’t seem to be doing that.”

Further analysis showed that three out of four veterans with “bad paper” discharges who served in combat and who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were denied eligibility by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Marine Corps veterans were nearly 10 times more likely to be ineligible for benefits than Air Force veterans.

Sloan Gibson, deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs, said a statement he welcomed the report’s findings.

“Where we can better advocate for and serve veterans within the law and regulation, we will look to do so as much as possible,” he told the New York Times.

The report’s recommendations to the VA were to revise its regulations to reflect Congressional intent, and only exclude those former service members who were discharged dishonorably. Furthermore, the VA should only require pre-eligibility reviews for those veterans who received punitive discharges, and make sure all its staff and volunteers understand Congressional intent, the authors said.

“Adoption of those recommendations would help to ensure that no veterans are denied the care and support that our nation owes them – and that Congress intended to provide them,” said the report.

Trump Calls Geneva Conventions a ‘Problem,’ Calls for More US Torture
| March 31, 2016 | 8:15 pm | Analysis, Imperialism, political struggle | No comments
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the crowd at a campaign rally in Farmington, New Hampshire January 25, 2016.

Trump Calls Geneva Conventions a ‘Problem,’ Calls for More US Torture

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The Republican front-runner makes new calls for the US to commit war crimes, adding to a candidacy mired in endless and addictive controversy.

America’s troops are placing their lives at heightened risk because they are afraid of violating the Geneva Conventions, said Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, speaking on Wednesday.

“The problem is we have the Geneva Conventions, all sorts of rules and regulations, so the soldiers are afraid to fight,” Trump said at a speaking event. “We can’t waterboard, but they can chop off heads! I think we’ve got to make some changes, some adjustments.”

The Geneva Conventions were adopted nearly unanimously following World War II, and govern the treatment of civilians and prisoners of war. The conventions include both a ban on torture and summary executions, two practices that Trump has been criticized for supporting. The Geneva Conventions were based on US rules adopted in 1882, following America’s Civil War, its bloodiest.

The Republican candidate has called for torture and the murdering of families of suspected terrorists as retaliation, two actions in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions. Trump previously declared that American troops would not disobey him if he ordered them to violate the conventions, but has since retracted that statement.

Cesar Chavez Day: Civil Rights Hero’s Legacy Lives on for Farmworkers
Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez Day: Civil Rights Hero’s Legacy Lives on for Farmworkers

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Thursday is Cesar Chavez Day, commemorating the life and struggle of the civil rights icon who fought the discrimination and repression of America’s agricultural workers.

​Thursday marks Cesar Chavez Day, a commemorative holiday celebrated in ten of the United States and a day that President Obama had called to be named a national holiday in 2008. Cesar Chavez, the civil rights icon, in 1962 was instrumental in creating the first farmworkers union, the United Farm Workers of America, representing the most highly repressed and discriminated workers in the country.

On this holiday, Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker sat down with the president of the United Farm Workers of America, Arturo Rodriguez, to talk about Chavez’s legacy, the continuing movement to better the lives of America’s agricultural workers, and the challenges that remain.

Who was Cesar Chavez?

“Cesar Chavez was a farm worker born and raised in Yuma, Arizona, in 1927,” said Rodriguez. “His family lost their farm during the Depression days, so his father took him to California to begin harvesting crops when Cesar was in the 8th grade, forcing him to leave school.”

“Cesar worked in the fields up and down California and Oregon for many years until he decided that, based on the injustices and discrimination that took place, it was time to take action. That was in 1962,” explained Rodriguez. “So he, along with his wife Helen Chavez and his friend Dolores Huerta, began to do work that was necessary to talk to farmworkers about building an organization to improve their lives and the lives of their families.”

How did Chavez organize the farmworkers?

Becker observed that, unlike factory workers, where everybody is in the same location, farm workers are dispersed, creating organizing challenges. But, as Arturo Rodriguez explained, there was a solution to that problem; the boycott.

“Cesar Chavez created the boycott, convincing people not to buy agricultural products that weren’t the product of union labor and didn’t have the union stamp,” said Rodriguez. Becker remembered protesting in front of grocery stores in his younger years and, for many years after, demanding grocery stores provide union labor products and convincing customers to buy only union-made goods.

How does the Union organize workers now?

“We’ve worked with farmworkers with text messaging and Facebook so that we can communicate more rapidly and organize,” said Rodriguez. He added that social media has enabled the organization to mobilize in states like California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and recently, New York. “We have a big effort in New York trying to get farmworkers for the first time to have the right to organize there.”

What is the state of affairs for today’s farmworkers?

Although the state of affairs has greatly improved for farmworkers since the time of Cesar Chavez, Arturo Rodriguez spoke of an ongoing plight and struggle with “much work left to be done.”

“We had three workers who died in the past year in the manure lagoons, waste from the cows all put in one particular area and because there are no guard rails around these particular areas, the workers driving the tractors that come close to them end up sliding into those areas and as a result are suffocated because of that,” said Rodriguez recounting a particular grievance.

He explained that, in the summer months, particularly in California and the Southwest, there are deaths each year due to heat exposure and a lack of sufficient water or rest breaks.

Still, Rodriguez remains optimistic about progress that has been made. “Over the past 50 years we have made significant progress ensuring bathrooms in the fields for both men and women, portable drinking water that is chilled so they don’t have to drink from nearby streams or rivers.”

Regarding heat exposure, he observes that progress has been made. “We have pushed laws on heat exposure and are working aggressively to ensure that the workers get enough breaks, drinking water, and shade, so that we can reduce the number of heat related deaths.”

Read more: http://sputniknews.com/us/20160401/1037303876/cesar-chavez-farmworkers-civil-rights.html#ixzz44X5xT61m

Beijing’s Ominous Threat to Washington Over South China Sea: ‘Be Careful’
| March 31, 2016 | 8:07 pm | Analysis, China, political struggle | No comments
China is outfitting new naval destroyers with their potent new anti-ship missiles, which pose serious challenges to US naval defenses.

Beijing’s Ominous Threat to Washington Over South China Sea: ‘Be Careful’

© AP Photo/ Pu Haiyang
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Tensions continue to mount between the US and China with an escalation of aggressive posturing on both sides.

On Thursday, Beijing’s Defense Ministry issued a veiled warning to the US, regarding naval activity in the South China Sea and a newly signed agreement between the US and the Philippines: “be careful.”

Tensions have risen between the US and China in recent months. There have been disputes over China’s handling of the North Korean sanctions regime, with American officials arguing that Beijing failed to implement the agreed-upon measures fully, and posturing by both sides regarding the long simmering dispute over territories in the South China Sea.

Earlier this month, the Philippines agreed to provide US forces access to five military bases, including some in the disputed South China Sea territories, at a time when China has moved to claim these territories by introducing military construction and civilian travel to several of the Spratly and Paracel Islands.

Growing tensions between Beijing and Washington date to October 2015, when the US carried out the first of two recent high-profile “freedom of navigation” operations, in which US warships sailed within 12 nautical miles of islets in the South China Sea claimed by China.

When questioned about these recent US naval operations, Yang Yujan, the Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman said, “As for the US ships which came, I can only suggest they be careful.”

The US has countered that the naval operations are necessary to maintain a balancing presence in the region, accusing China of having dispatched ballistic missiles to the disputed islands in an effort to militarize the area.

Yang says that the United States is guilty of imperialism and militarism in the region, not China. “The United States has come back and is reinforcing its military presence in this region and promoting militarization in the South China Sea,” he stated.

As relations continue to deteriorate between the countries, America’s Cold War revivalists are preparing to add China to their adversary list.

Read more: http://sputniknews.com/asia/20160401/1037304454/china-us-cold-war-threat.html#ixzz44X54OMzD

The upcoming 2016 presidential political debacle

Has the US embarked on a path of self-destruction?

 

By James Thompson

 

As we observe the perverse insanity of the 2016 presidential election cycle, it is important to take at least a momentary hiatus from the titillating debauchery which never ceases to capture the public attention and try to make some sense of the spectacle.

 

THE TRUMP PHENOMENON

 

We are bombarded by the mainstream media’s coverage of every minuscule twist and turn of the revolting campaign of the number one Shaman/showman, Donald Trump. He seems to have hypnotized the American public by his continuous spew of filth, physical violence, and verbal violence against anyone he disagrees with, particularly women, Muslims, Latinos, people with disabilities, and a variety of other major sectors of the US population. Although he is reprehensible, sadly, he appears to have set himself up as a leader of the most disgusting people in the United States today. Someone once told me that in order to be a leader, you must first identify a crowd and then position yourself in front of them. Trump has followed this edict to the letter and it has paid off for him in terms of political support and votes. His campaign and ideology remind me of the nihilism espoused by the Nazi party and more recently expressed by a US rock ‘n roll band called “the Doors”. “The Doors” were followers of the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who was the darling of the German Nazi party. Here is a song which embodies the Trump ideology and mystique which has caught on like wildfire and seems to have unified the most degenerate among the US people:

“WE COULD BE SO GOOD TOGETHER

Jim Morrison 1968

We could be so good together

Ya, so good together

We could be so good together

Ya, we could, I know we could

 

Tell you lies

I tell you wicked lies

Tell you lies

Tell you wicked lies

 

Tell you ’bout the world that we’ll invent

Wanton world without lament

Enterprise, expedition

Invitation and invention

 

Ya, so good together

Ah, so good together

We could be so good together

Ya, we could, know we could

 

Alright!

 

Do da do do do do do bup bup de day

 

We could be so good together

Ya, so good together

We could be so good together

Ya, we could, know we could

 

Tell you lies

Tell you wicked lies

Tell you lies

Tell you wicked lies

 

The time you wait subtracts the joy

Beheads the angels you destroy

Angels fight, angels cry

Angels dance and angels die

 

Ya, so good together

Ah, but so good together

We could be so good together

Ya, we could, know we could”

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBC4dfLlcbI

 

Although Trump has distinguished himself as a front runner among the decadent Republican mongrels running for president, he has rivals which actually make him look good.

Ted Cruz from Texas is the darling of the Tea Party. He and Trump agree when they both demonize immigrants and Muslims in the most chauvinistic display of racism since the advocates of slavery in the deep South.

More recently, these two pathetic clowns have clashed by debasing each other’s anatomical parts followed by a vicious attack on each other’s wives. Although US politics could never be described as civil and democratic, the current displays reach a level never seen before in bourgeois political campaigns.

Ted Cruz is an unapologetic advocate for the wealthy elite. He makes no bones in calling for the persecution of immigrants and he is no opponent of world war. His election would represent an unprecedented lurch towards world conflagration and the ultimate destruction of the United States.

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS REGRESSION IN THINKING AND BEHAVIOR FOR THE US?

The childish verbal aggression which has become mainstream politics in the Republican Party struggle for the nomination for president of the United States must serve a useful purpose for the bourgeois Masters of the electoral process in the USA. One possibility is that this grand theater serves as a smokescreen and distraction from real democratic political struggle. As long as workers are focused on the hand size and size of other anatomical parts of the candidates, it is less likely that they will notice that these vicious reactionaries advocate military aggression and disdain world peace. Indeed, no candidate for the office of the president of the United States advocates world peace. They all vary slightly in terms of the degree with which they endorse military aggression on foreign, sovereign nations.

One candidate, John Kasich, has openly advocated funding and supporting the US imposed fascist regime in the Ukraine. This deplorable, fascist government in Kiev calls for the persecution of Russian-speaking people in the Ukraine and certain elements call for the extermination of Russians. These vicious snakes are the front line of the US backed military assault on Russia. No candidate in any credible way argues with this position.

Most candidates call for the confrontation of China and support the US military aggression in the South China Sea. The US military continuously challenges and provokes the Chinese government and denies their right to their sovereign territories.

The circus in the US political arena obfuscates US military aggression around the world. US provocations in the Middle East, and against Russia and China are the most dangerous and could lead to nuclear war. No one in the US seems to be aware that nuclear war could pave a clear path to the total destruction of the human race as well as many other species which inhabit the world. Indeed, the US, China and Russia could turn each other into cockroach food in a matter of hours. “We can all be cremated equally.”

WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

Hopefully the US has not reached the point of no return in spite of the blatant madness of the political candidates and mainstream media. Only working people can lead the struggle out of the ideological mire in which we find ourselves. Let us stop wallowing in the mire.

It is clear that the current candidates for the president of the United States do not advocate a path away from the self-destructive attitudes of the most degenerate sector of the population. We must ask ourselves as people of conscience if there is anything to be done to oppose the destructiveness of the anarchic, nihilistic collective consciousness of the people in the US. Bernie Sanders advocates a “political revolution”. It is not clear what he means by this but it is clear that we need a mass movement to propel our backward nation forward towards world peace, healthcare for all, education for all, full employment, housing for all and an end to mass incarceration. We need a new political system to meet the needs of working people and preserve progressive political gains. US working people of conscience need to unite in the struggle for peace and against the aims of the reactionaries. Education is needed to help working people see through the obfuscation of the neofascists. Without the opposition of working people, it is clear that the mass media and their bourgeois Masters will do everything they can to propel neofascist reactionaries into positions of political power wherever possible.

It is important to remember that support for neoliberals does not equate to opposition to fascism. Indeed, some neoliberals are the most effective champions of fascism which have ever raised their ugly heads. Both liberal and conservative voices supporting fascism must be fought. Fascism equates to self-destruction and the most notable examples are German Naziism and Italian fascism. We all know what happened to the supporters of Hitler and Mussolini. Do US people want to meet the same fate as the followers of Hitler and Mussolini?

A mass movement needs to be organized starting now which has the power to oppose the anti-working people policies of whatever candidate is elected to the office of president. What is done before the election appears to be irrelevant. What matters is what will happen after the election.

Feminism Denied? Women Not So Eager To Back Clinton, Poll Says

03:23 31.03.2016(updated 03:25 31.03.2016) Get short URL

Hillary Clinton has a very good chance of becoming the first female US president. According to a recent poll, however, most women in the US don’t consider gender when voting for a candidate.

Clinton is not the first female presidential candidate in the US. The first woman to offer herself as a candidate for the highest office in the land was Victoria Woodhull, in 1872.

According to McClatchyDC, American women, who only won the right to vote in the country in 1920, are generally enthusiastic about electing a woman to be President, but feel uneasy with the idea of voting for a particular candidate simply because she is a woman.

“It’s got to be the right woman,” said Jan McGuire, 49, a high school English teacher from Council Bluffs, Iowa. This pretty much sums up the attitude of both supporters and opponents of Hillary Clinton.

© Sputnik/ Ted Rall

Hillary’s War on Women

McClatchyDC quotes Becca Ites, 30, a high school sports coach in Des Moines, Iowa, saying: “Nothing she says seems authentic to me… I honestly don’t believe her. Just because she’s a female doesn’t mean that she identifies with anything.”

In her current campaign, Clinton, in a 180-degree shift from her previous campaign in 2008, plays heavily to women, from addressing female-specific issues, to campaigning with an all-female cast of supporters, including Lilly Ledbetter, EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock, as well as Senators Jeanne Shaheen, Kirsten Gillibrand, Barbara Mikulski, Amy Klobuchar and Debbie Stabenow.

However, the front running Democratic candidate has trouble convincing women to join her, with many supporting Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump.

As McClatchyDC puts it, “Trump has won female voters in many primary contests and could appeal to them in a general election by focusing on some of his seemingly more moderate stances on health care and Planned Parenthood.”

Women historically tend to vote not from the standpoint of personality, but  from common sense, judging a candidate’s’ platform by their strong and weak points. More interesting is the fact that women who do not support the Clinton candidacy have been strongly criticized by feminists, most notably former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright with her now infamous line delivered last February: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” made in reference to supporting Clinton.

© Flickr/ Tina Leggio

Socialist Roots: Why International Women’s Day is Ignored by the US

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem went further, accusing young women of supporting candidate Sanders simply because they were following the “boys.” She said, “Women are more for [Clinton] than men are… They’re going to get more activist as they grow older. And when you’re younger, you think: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.'” This earned Steinem her own share of infamy among feminists.

Despite the active support of women-focused organizations including Emily’s List, the Feminist Majority Foundation, NARAL, Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood Votes, McClatchyDC says, “to some women, Clinton’s wealth, fame and race make her part of the ‘establishment’ politics they are fighting against.”
Read more: http://sputniknews.com/politics/20160331/1037238083/Women-Not-Eager-Back-Clinton.html#ixzz44R96qsoS

Ex-Bush Official: ‘War is a Racket’ Led by Corporations, Not Security
War profiteering

Ex-Bush Official: ‘War is a Racket’ Led by Corporations, Not Security

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Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former Chief of Staff, derided the US military-industrial complex, warning that corporate interests have taken over America’s security apparatus.

“War is a Racket,” the famous 51-page pamphlet written in 1935 by Major General Smedley Butler, the most highly decorated US Marine of his generation, criticizes the US war machine, noting that the US wages war as much to ensure corporate profit as it does to secure and protect the so-called American way of life.

On Tuesday, former Chief of Staff to State Colin Powell, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, stated, without irony, “I think Smedley Butler was onto something.”

Wilkerson expanded on his observation. “Was Bill Clinton’s expansion of NATO – after George H.W. Bush and James Baker had assured Gorbachev and then Yeltsin that he wouldn’t go an inch further east – was this for Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon, and Boeing, and others, to increase their network of potential weapons sales?” Wilkerson asked. “You bet it was,” he said.

Today, observes Wilkerson, the US military-industrial complex “is much more pernicious than Eisenhower ever thought it would be,” pointing to Lockheed Martin’s role in providing arms to repressive Middle Eastern regimes like Saudi Arabia and increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Since the middle of the 20th century, the US military-industrial complex has branched out from simple weapons manufacture to promulgating think tanks and other forms of legal and tax-exempt non-profit organizations that purport to be impartial, writing editorials and policy proposals that support the agenda of the military-industrial infrastructure, and often adopted as policy by Congress and the executive branch.

“Is there a penchant on behalf of the Congress to bless the use of force more often than not because of the constituencies they have and the money they get from the defense contractors?” Wilkerson asked. “You bet.”

“In many respects it is now private interests that benefit most from our use of military force, whether it is private security contractors that are still all over Iraq or Afghanistan or it’s the bigger known defense contractors, like Lockheed Martin,” he stated.

Wilkerson again quoted Butler: “Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

The war racket revealed by US military hero Smedley Butler — himself a kind of proto-whistleblower — continues as strong as ever. Corporate profits and shareholder revenue continue to outweigh most concerns of national security. Defense contractors make very good money making devices that only kill, and that often end up in the hands of terror organizations like Daesh to be turned against Americans, both civilian and those in uniform.

Former Chief of Staff Wilkerson said of America that which is well known but is now spoken of more commonly: “We are the death merchant of the world. We’ve privatized the ultimate public function: war.”

Read more: http://sputniknews.com/military/20160330/1037231648/wilkerson-cheney-powell-war-profiteering.html#ixzz44R7qYuTy