Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The real scandal isn't at the IRS

The IRS is tasked with the responsibility to review applications for tax exemption.  In what is known as the 501(c) process, organizations can apply for tax exemption by providing information which proves to the satisfaction of the IRS, that they are non-political, social welfare type organizations whose primary function is not to advance a political agenda.

The IRS has recently come under attack by Republicans in Congress who claim that the IRS over-stepped their authority when it came to reviewing tax exemption applications from Tea Party type organizations.  The outrage of Republicans is evident  in the chambers of Congress where Republicans led by Darrel Issa, chair of the special investigative committee, have sworn to get to the bottom of the connection of IRS wrong-doing with the White House and more importantly with President Obama.

Perhaps because Republicans are blinded by the rush that getting a chance to implicate the President of wrong-doing elicits, they are missing some of the important facts which could, and by all rights should, turn the tide of wrong-doing onto their constituents.

First, to even refer to an organization as a Republican group implicates them as being political.  This violates the meaning of a 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 and should not entitle them to tax exemption.  Even so, the IRS approved applications for many obviously Republican political groups such as the "Tea Party Patriots" the "American Patriots Against Government Excess", "National Tea Party Group" and "Tea Party Radio."  If you have any doubt that these organizations are primarily politically focused, all you have to do is go to their web sites to see it for yourself.

So why did the IRS approve these applications?  If they followed their own guidelines, they should have known that these organizations were primarily involved in politics.  So what did they base their  decisions on?  Despite what the right wing media and Republicans in Congress are attempting to convey, the IRS did not make their decisions based on the names representing these organizations.  They could not have, otherwise they would not have approved the applications.  They made their decisions based on the information that the organizations provided.  

It appears a safe bet that the information provided to the IRS by the applicants was insufficient to implicate the organizations as political action committees.  If this was done by the applicants to  intentionally mislead the IRS review, then it is a crime which is punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.  That is the real scandal here.  These organizations might have knowingly hidden information from the IRS in order to get unfair and undeserved tax advantages.  That sounds familiar.  Where have we seen this before?  Oh yeah, Romney was pretty good at that.

Lindsey Graham
Now in a relentless pursuit to find something bad to pin on the President, Senator Lindsey Graham (R- SC) is calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the entire IRS "scandal".  This could be the best thing that ever happened for the IRS and the worst thing for the Tea Party Patriots and their Republican leadership.

If a special prosecutor is called who is impartial, then I predict that the IRS and the President will be cleared of any wrong-doing.  Furthermore, some unhappy Tea Party organizations will be paying for their arrogance and deception when the real scandal is revealed.  Perhaps clearer Republican heads will prevail and convince Graham to drop the idea before the truth can be known.

That would be a pity.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Republican to English dictionary

Although born and raised in the United States, my father, who passed away in his old age a few years ago, was not really good with the English language.  Sometimes he used words that he made up in conversation that sounded like words that they really weren't.  My kids were often confused by their "Papa", as they used to call him, and I would joke with them that maybe we needed to get a Papa- to-English dictionary.

Because of their support for policies which Republicans stand for, most of which go against their best interest, middle-class Republicans may be well served if they had a Republican-to-English dictionary.  Perhaps that way they could better understand that their welfare is not of concern when it comes to modern Republican politics.

Here are a few examples of statements we have heard our Republican leaders talk about.  I have given some assistance to the American voter by attempting to identify the true meaning of these words in plain English.

"Jobs, Jobs Jobs": Cheap foreign labor for America's Corporations.  

"Support for our troops": Increasing government funding of defense contractors.

"Reducing the deficit":  Protecting the 1% by taking revenue off the table, increasing military budgets to protect defense contractors and only calling for government spending reductions in programs for the poor, women, children, the elderly, students, the handicapped, military veterans and the unemployed.

"Smaller Government": 1. Eliminating government protections of it citizens in regards to regulations on business so that big business can operate with a free hand to decrease costs involved with making a safe product, protecting the environment, giving fair wages, creating a safe work environment, treating workers fairly and otherwise operating responsibly.  2. Reducing government spending by eliminating public service jobs such as teachers, police, fire-fighters and government workers and rejecting the American Jobs Act that would have improved the infrastructure of roads, bridges, schools, etc. 

"2nd Amendment rights": Returning the favor for NRA lobbyist money and preserving the market and demand for weapon manufacturers regardless of the wishes of the majority of Americans for stronger gun laws.

"Obama-Care": Originally a Republican introduced derogatory term for the Affordable Care Act which later became adopted as a catch-phrase by President Obama.  Republican intent is to put fear into American citizens and protect big insurance corporations from the effects of treating American citizens with fairer insurance rules and charging costs that would benefit the citizen.  Most of the effort of the Republicans in the 113th Congress has been in attempting to repeal Obama-Care law 37 times as of this date.

"Sequester": A Republican plan since 2010 to reduce the size of government in a way that would protect the wealthy and would otherwise never be possible by normal legislative proceedings.

"Filibuster": The cornerstone of Republican obstructionism used to prevent problem resolution, slow down progress on legislation and block President Obama's appointees and ideas that support middle-class Americans.

"Balanced Budget": A financial plan that reduces spending on useful government programs such as medicare, medicaid, the social safety net and social security which must not be balanced by any increase in revenue, especially by increased taxes on the wealthy or corporations. 

"501(c)4": Republican worked loophole in the IRS regulations that permits a political action committee to receive donations that are exempt from federal taxes and then to complain when the IRS workers request information that may prove they are political action committees.  The 501(c)4 is supposed to be for non-political social organizations.

"Stimulus package": Another name for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  An act carried out by the Democrats and President Obama that saved the country from financial collapse.  Republicans voted against the stimulus package.

"Voter ID": An attempt to reduce access to voting by members of the citizenry who would not vote Republican in elections.  This action as well as closing down voting precincts and voting hours were used by Republican state legislatures as a strategy in the 2012 elections.

Republicans have proven that they do not represent the middle-class or the poor.  If you are in one of these groups and you vote Republican, I would be interested in knowing why you would vote that way.

If you have any other definitions, please feel free to add a comment.  I'll add the best one's to my collection.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

States who implement expanded Medicaid will see significant improvement in financial health

With the arrival of medical care under the Affordable Care Act in 2014, those states who's legislatures are smart businessmen will see state expenditures for medicaid recipients health insurance coverage erased off their books.  This can save many states tens of billions of dollars of state funds.

Some states with Republican governors and/or legislatures have unfortunately allowed Federal Republicans to distort their view of Obama Care benefits to the states and in so doing have done themselves, their state and their citizens a disservice.

It is just bad business for a state to turn away federal money but that's exactly what some foolish state legislatures are doing.  Let me cite an example with the situation in Florida.

Florida's Governor, Rick Scott originally sided with federal Congressional Republicans and supported the "Obama-Care bad" philosophy.  But when Governor Scott began to investigate the advantages of
implementing expanded medicaid in Florida, he changed his mind.  Unfortunately, most of the GOP in the Florida legislature didn't have the wisdom or understanding that Scott had and now it looks as though Florida will not implement expanded medicaid.

Florida is currently funding medicaid for 3.3 million recipients at a cost of $21 billion a year before Obama-Care.  Half of this cost is shared with the federal government.  Although the intentions of the Florida legislature may have been to not become a partner with the federal government (because Obama-Care is a Democrat idea), they already are partners with them.  So to bite off their own noses to spite their faces, the Republicans in the Florida legislature are willing to give up about $10.5 billion dollars of federal assistance to make an empty gesture of solidarity that will cost Florida tax payers billions.

Under Obama Care, medicaid's expansion would give health coverage to unemployed persons and people who cannot afford health insurance and are not covered by any company health insurance plan or medicaid recipient class today.  Florida would have been able to add this class of recipient for no additional cost under Obama Care for the first three years of implementation.  After that, the State would only bear 10% of medicaid costs, which is still a bargain since they are currently paying 50% of the cost.

When individuals do not have insurance and go to a hospital for medical care, they often go to the emergency room.  Emergency room costs are very high.  Since uninsured patients usually cannot pay their medical bill, hospitals will file with insurance companies and insurance companies will pass that cost along to the rest of us in increased insurance premiums.

Hospitals are more likely to be able to increase employment when more people are covered by an insurance plan and are able to receive medical treatment.  This should not be overlooked by the party who only thinks about "jobs, jobs, jobs."

Ultimately, Florida would be able to cover more patients for less cost if the legislature would implement expanded medicaid under the Affordable Healthcare Act.

The situation is exactly the same for other states.  It just makes good fiscal sense for states to implement the extended medicaid program.  It is puzzling why some are not.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

TIGTA says no evidence leads to White House participation in IRS 501(c) scandal


So full of joy were Republicans when another so-called scandal looked like it could involve the upper levels of the Obama administration.  I'll call it the IRS501(c) scandal, even though calling it a scandal is a real stretch.  

Fox news contributors seriously reported that this IRS manipulation was being controlled by the White House so that Republicans would lose Ohio.  This had to be the case they believed, otherwise Obama would have lost the 2012 Presidential election.  People say ignorance is bliss but spreading that kind of misinformation is unforgivable. 

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) was notified by certain Republican members of Congress that they suspected wrongdoing at the IRS.  The TIGTA did an audit investigation of the situation at the IRS and published their findings.  They found no evidence that the White House was involved in any way.     

The incident took place during a time when Douglas H. Shulman was IRS Commissioner.  Mr. Shulman was a Republican and a George W. Bush appointee to the office.   Does anyone seriously think (other than Fox news and the radical right wing media) that President Obama could manipulate a Republican to target other Republicans for political gain?  Of course not.
George W. Bush

And what happened at the IRS exactly?  The IRS saw a dramatic increase in the number of applications by groups and individuals for 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 tax exempt status for their organization.  Per tax regulations 501(c)3 exempt organizations cannot have political ties at all and must receive IRS approval.  The 501(c)4 organizations may only have limited and not primary focus on political issues.  It is the job of the IRS to investigate these applications to ensure that they meet the requirements.

The IRS receives nearly 70,000 tax exemption requests each year.  All of the applications for tax exemption are sent to the IRS office in Cincinnati, Ohio where less than 200 employees must review each one.  In order to facilitate this daunting task, some of the workers there used character searches to find those exemptions that may be 501(c)3 or 501(c)4 types.  Since the workers noticed a lot of the applications had words such as "Tea Party" and "Patriot" which implied to them that they may be 501(c) exemption requests , they used such words to help them filter out the applications.  

IRS indicates that these were not the only search terms used and that there was no political bias intended in any of their searches.   In fact only 70 of the 296 cases reviewed contained the words "Tea Party".   However, IRS management realizes that this method is "inappropriate"  and vows to change the process.   They note that even if the search process was not used, information in the application would still have targeted these same groups for follow-up (or as IRS calls it "centralization".)   There are currently 470 cases that are centralized.

The TIGTA found that the IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax‑exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention.

They identified that ineffective IRS management:
1) allowed inappropriate criteria to be developed and stay in place for more than 18 months,
2) resulted in substantial delays in processing certain applications, and
3) allowed unnecessary information requests to be issued.

Although the processing of some applications with potential significant political campaign intervention was started soon after receipt, no work was completed on the majority of these applications for 13 months. This was due to delays in receiving assistance from the Exempt Organizations function Headquarters office.

For the 296 total political campaign intervention applications TIGTA reviewed as of December 17, 2012, 108 had been approved, 28 were withdrawn by the applicants, none had been denied, and 160 were open from 206 to 1,138 calendar days (some for more than three years and crossing two election cycles).

More than 20 months after the initial case was identified, processing the cases began in earnest. Many organizations received requests for additional information from the IRS that included unnecessary, burdensome questions (e.g., lists of past and future donors). The IRS later informed some organizations that they did not need to provide previously requested information. IRS officials stated that any donor information received in response to a request from its Determinations Unit was later destroyed.

Ultimately, this so-called scandal is really a few IRS employees innocently trying to expedite their work assignments by a process which coincidentally gives the perception of political bias to people so biased in their own beliefs and so quick to judgement that they were inclined to blow this out of proportion, especially in their attempts to link it to President Obama.

Barack Obama is the President of the United States.  It's time Republicans started treating him that way.
President Obama

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Imbalance Between Work Visas, Job Growth and US College graduates

Sen Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
Certain high tech computer companies have sent a letter to President Obama recently complaining about the rejections of some visa applications.  In the past rejections were nearly absent but apparently the rejection rate has gone up.  This infuriates these large international corporations.  It seems like they are on the verge of collapse if they cannot hire foreigners.  Or maybe it's just that they are so use to getting their way that government intervention in their policies gets them mad.  In any case, their actions seems to have received the attention of Orrin Hatch.

Recently immigration legislation has been put on hold, largely due to amendments introduced by Senator Hatch (R-Utah), which would ease limitations on US companies to hire foreigners for US jobs in the Computer and Engineering disciplines.

For example, Mr. Hatch would like to increase the number of foreign H1-B visas allowed even above the 180,000 number which has already been offered (a nearly three fold increase over previous years.)  He would also like to eliminate the requirement that US Companies look for qualified Americans for the job before hiring a foreign worker.  He suggests permitting an honor system where US companies are simply trusted that they have looked for and not found any American worker who can do the same job as their visa candidates.

With all of the talk about a lack of jobs in America, the high unemployment rate and the difficulty college graduates are having finding jobs, it seems contradictory for Republicans to find new ways to reduce the job market for American citizens, especially in the face of their so-called pledge to focus on "jobs, jobs, jobs."

Are American college graduates too stupid to do the jobs that these huge American Corporations are offering?  Are the number of qualified graduates so low in comparison to the number of new job offerings that these Corporations must use the visa system to find qualified workers?  Are American Corporate managers too busy to find and train American workers?  Are there any cost differences that make a foreign worker much more desirable than an American worker?  How does the government audit the fact that American workers are not qualified or available before they issue visas?  The answers to these questions would help shed some light on the subject.

First, let's review a high level picture of the types of visas available.

There are a number of different pathways that a high tech company can use to employ foreign workers in the United States.  These pathways vary by the kinds of visa available.  These include H1-B, L-1B, L-1A, B-1 and OPT.  Although the H1-B visa is the most well known, the other visa pathways serve the same purpose in that the applicants are foreigners and can take jobs in America.

The H1-B, B-1 and OPT allow foreign workers to be hired and work for the US company in the United States.  The L-1A and L-1B allow foreign workers who are already hired in a foreign office of the US company to be transferred to the United States office of that company.  The L-1A is for management positions while the L-1B is for non-management positions.

All visas have duration limits but for foreigners of some countries the duration can exceed 10 years with extensions.  Once a foreign worker has taken an American based job, they can remain there for a long time and each year new foreign workers can obtain new visas.  When viewed from a duration aspect, the number of high-tech H1-B foreign workers in America increases each year by 65,000 to 85,000 workers.  It will be even more after 2013.  Over ten years, this means that on average 750,000 American jobs have been filled by foreign workers.  Looked at in a different way, this means that the number of college graduates who major in Computer Science will not have much luck finding jobs, especially when the number of foreign H1-B visas is increased to 180,000 per year in 2014.  It is little wonder that college students have turned away from science, technology, engineering and math majors.

L-1B and L-1A visas appear on the surface to be an expected entitlement of major Corporations.  Since the employees that apply for these types of visas already belong to the mother corporation, although in a foreign office, why shouldn't they be allowed to transfer freely between countries?  One reason is for the protection of American workers who are also working for the same corporation.  Another is in  fairness to American workers who might want to work for the corporation.

H1-B and US Workers Salary Comparison
Under current US law, using their own foreign workers, American corporations can hire in the foreign office and transfer the worker to the American office after one year.  In this way, the company can plan to replace or displace American workers each year simply by hiring in the foreign country.  Although H1-B visa law suggests that corporations pay the visa worker a wage that is competitive wage to US workers, the L-1B and L-1A visas have no such provision.   When a foreign worker is hired, the salary of that worker in his own country is usually tens of thousands of dollars less than their American counterpart.  It's then just a matter of economics for the American corporation to take jobs away from Americans.  Patriotism doesn't pay the multi-million dollar salaries of the C-level  executives of such companies.

Looking at the Bureau of Labor Statistics findings for the annual increase specifically for new Computer related job opportunities since 2010, we find expected job growth is about 72,000 jobs per year.  This compares to 85,900 computer graduates from American colleges each year.  That is less growth in the computer job market than there are college graduates on an annual basis.  This does not give any support to the idea that American companies must look to foreign countries for job applicants.

When you combine all of the visa pathways available to American Corporations, the number of US jobs filled by foreign workers far outweighs the availability of new jobs.  This gives evidence that US Corporations are not just filling new jobs, they are back-filling jobs being taken away from American workers.  Perhaps through attrition or outright layoffs, American corporations are reducing their costly American workforce while at the same time screaming for more visas for foreign workers.

American Corporations are also using 3rd party foreign consulting agencies to find H1-B contract workers at reduced cost.  In this way, the American corporation avoids having to give a competitive salary since the H1-B holder is not their employee.

When Republicans claim that increasing work visas helps bring prosperity to America they are really talking about the wealth of their constituents.  America to a Republican in office doesn't have the same definition as it does to 99% of us.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why the Republican Party is destined to become extinct

Extinct Dodo Bird
As certain as the extinction of the Dodo bird, so is the imminent extinction of the Republican Party.

"What!??" you say.  The Republican party has survived the test of time and is a powerful machine that can't be stopped.  How can the party be destined for extinction?

Glad you asked.

The decline of the Republican party popularity is obvious in the polls and related to their obstruction in Congress for the most part.

Although the radical right wing of the Republican party, called the "Tea Party" deserves much of the blame for the party's loss of popularity, the acceptance of that faction by the moderate Republican membership is being seen by outside observers as the new direction of the Republican party as a whole.

In many respects this is probably a correct perception since the Tea Party Caucus still exists and some members of Congress who have been members of the Tea Party Caucus hold powerful positions on some committees.  I don't think the majority of voters know who in the Republican party is a Tea Partier, yet a large number of Tea Partiers lost seats in the last election.   From the stand-point of the American voting public, the Tea Party and hence the Republican Party may be losing support.

A lot of the personality of the Republican party is still coming from Tea Party members.  The party is inflexible.  It is obstinate and over-reaching.  It does not keep promises.  It is deceitful.  It is bigoted.  It is self-serving.  It is anti-intellectual.  It is uncaring.  It is war-mongering.  It is misogynistic.

The party refuses to accept or pass most Democrat introduced legislation.  They have become famous for being the party of obstruction.  Their overall approval rating in most polls is devastatingly low and around 20% as of this writing.

If you are a politician and the people don't support you, then you should be worried about losing your job.  The fact that most are not worried and continue to act the same way could show how anti-intellectual they are, but because the Republican side of the House has gerrymandered state voting districts, they are fairly sure that their actions represent the majority of people in their districts and they will be re-elected.

The party is populated with leaders who constantly re-invent the wheel and make it a lot less round each time.  Republican political leaders have re-written the workings of the female reproductive system.  They refuse to accept any scientific findings about climate change.  They believe science manipulates data to derive their own self-serving facts.  Needless to say, an overwhelming number of scientists do not belong to the Republican Party.

Republican leaders like John Boehner have said the number one issue for Republicans is "jobs, jobs, jobs."  Yet republicans have done nothing to create jobs.  They stick to the claim that Corporate America would create jobs if we don't tax them, even though Corporate America has given away millions of jobs to third world nations and incoming third world nationals over the last thirty years.  This is deceitful and just another way that Republican leaders show that they do not really mean what they say.

Republican leaders have recently publicly announced bigoted remarks such as calling gays "filthy homosexuals" and calling immigrants "wetbacks."  The White Student Union recently attended the Conservative Action Council where it's leader supported segregation and slavery.

KKK emblem
Without even thinking about the number of Republicans in the KKK, Republican bigotry is becoming more obvious since President Obama has been elected.

The Republicans in Congress appear to hate the fact that a black man could be the President.  They met even before President Obama's inauguration in 2008 to agree to block all legislation he introduced to make him a "one term President."  Failing that, they have continued their obstructionist actions to deny the President any successes.  They are now attacking the Affordable Care Act by voting for a 37th time to repeal it and in the process wasting $55 million of taxpayer money that could have otherwise gone to other more fruitful uses.

Their obsession with causing harm to President Obama includes casting rumors and suspicions of his personal involvement with recent controversies concerning the Benghazi attacks, the IRS review of 501(c)4 tax exempt organizations and Department of Justice obtaining AP members telephone records.

The uncaring attitude of Republican leaders is aptly represented by the introduction of the Ryan Budget which slashes social programs in favor of tax advantages for the wealthy.  Mothers and children who have little to eat rank far below the Republicans favorite person, the wealthy Corporate CEO.  In order to save America with so-called jobs, Republicans will ensure that their favorite persons increase their wealth while much of America starves.  Meanwhile Corporate coffers have become overflowing with cash while jobs are nearly non-existent.

The Bush administration brought us the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  Had Mitt Romney won the 2012 Presidential election, Iran may already have been invaded.  We saw the clamoring in Congress when it was suggested that Iran might already have or very soon acquire nuclear weapons.  Republicans see war as a means to benefit their wealthy supporters who happen to own and operate companies involved in the weapons of war.  This explains their anxious dialog about going to war and funding war, while their legislation prevents the American victims of war and the veterans of war from getting assistance in returning to civilian life.

Republican leaders, where they control state legislatures and governorships have shown their misogynist side.  Republicans in Congress have stood against the Violence against Women Act.  Other Congressional actions to obstruct or defeat certain social programs will have an impact on women and children.  Wisconsin has passed repeal of equal pay for women.  North Dakota's Governor and other state governors have signed bills which many consider unconstitutional, to reduce women's access to reproductive rights services.  Even though Roe v Wade is law, Republicans in Congress and in the States have managed to restrict the intention of the law.    

Many Republican policies can be explained by what they are against.  They are anti-middle-class in their favoritism to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

They are anti-women in their fights against women's rights.

They are anti-gay rights in their opposition to marriage equality legislation.

They are anti-student in their votes against funding Pell grants.

They are anti-urban voter in their fight to make voting more difficult with reducing voting hours and requiring voter ID cards.

They are anti-student voter in their legislation to prevent students from voting in the state where their college is located.

They are anti-labor by their fights against the national labor relations board membership.

They are anti-jobs by their activities to block President Obama's American Jobs Act.

They are anti-consumer by their blocking the Presidential appointment of a Director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

They are anti-Christian by insisting that social programs for the weakest of society be cut in favor of tax breaks for the wealthy.

They are anti-elderly by their demands for changing Medicare and Social Security which will hurt the elderly.

They are anti-poor people for fighting to repeal the Affordable Care Act which covers millions of formerly uninsured persons and improves patient treatment by insurance companies.

They are anti-veteran by preventing government aid to injured veterans and blocking assistance in finding jobs after serving their country.

They are anti-immigrant by failing to pass immigration reform.

They are anti-family by failing to protect children and families from gun violence by their actions to prevent improved background checks for firearms.

My guess is that the total number of people who Republicans are failing to represent amounts to nearly 98% of the country.  The reason they have not been voted out of office yet, I blame on the "one-issue" Republicans who continue to vote them in.  One-issue Republicans are those voters who dispel any other adverse effects of having a Republican represent them provided they cover their one major (usually social) issue of concern.

Remember Romney
The specific social issue may vary from voter to voter.   Republicans have done a good job in recognizing and appealing to those issues.  These issues include but are not limited to such things as gun rights, right to life, small government lie, no new taxes lie, the moochers syndrome and the job creators lie.

Convincing the voter that Republican policy will benefit them is greatly assisted by the Republican knack for lying to the public guiltlessly about anything that advances the Republican cause.  Fox news and other radical right wing talk show hosts contribute to this and may actually be hurting the Republican party more than it knows.  Lest you forget, remember the lies of the Romney campaign?  The same political infrastructure that led Romney is still leading the Republicans in Congress.  Romney lost the election but we are still being inundated by his policies...because they are Republican policies.

Ultimately, once the majority of one-issue Republican voters start to realize that it is in their best interest to evaluate all of the issues, the extinction of the Republican party will begin.  I think this process has already started and expect that we will see some of the results of this in the 2014 Congressional elections.

I'll bet you $10,000.  (Not really.  That's how I remember Romney ;-)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Can we learn anything from Republican accusations about Benghazi?

Serious concerns or political posturing?
Like Mitt Romney before them, Republicans in Congress would like to turn the deaths of four Americans serving their country in Benghazi, Libya into fuel to burn the Democrats in the next election.

Despite the public statements of Darrell Issa that Republicans are not targeting President Obama or Hilary Clinton, the outrage of Republicans is aimed at the so-called "cover-up" which the Republicans claim that the Obama administration is pursuing and not in finding ways to prevent such a tragedy in the future.

Presented below is a brief description of the Benghazi incidents at the US diplomatic offices and the CIA annex.  Perhaps we can learn from this information to focus on prevention and escape the disgraceful accusations that Republicans are making for political gain, at least for a little while.  I have highlighted in red font any sections that we might learn from for later discussion.  

There were about seven Americans in the US diplomatic offices in Benghazi, Libya when 125 to 150  armed terrorists attacked the building on the evening of September 11, 2012 around 9:40PM local time.  That night four Americans would die.

A Diplomatic Security Service Agent sounded the alarm that an attack was underway.  DSS special agent Scott Strickland secured Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith, an information management  officer, into a secure area.  Other agents left for another building to retrieve their weapons but could not return because of enemy gun fire.
Benghazi Consulate

The attackers entered the main building and set fires with gasoline.  The thick smoke made Stevens, Smith and Strickland move to a bathroom but the smoke made them decide to exit the safe area.  Strickland left through a window but Stevens and Smith did not follow.  Although Strickland returned several times he could not find them.  Strickland returned to the roof where he radioed for help.

Three agents returned to the building and found Smith's body but could not find Stevens.

The Regional Security Office placed calls for help to the CIA building in Benghazi and the embassy in Tripoli but the calls were cut off.  The Global Response Staff at the CIA office, led by Tyrone S. Woods, made a plan to mount a rescue operation into the Benghazi diplomatic compound.  By 10:05 PM they embarked on the rescue operation.

When arriving at the diplomatic offices, the rescue team found Sean Smith who was unconscious and later died.  They could not find Stevens and decided to return to the CIA annex with the survivors and Smith's body.  On the way back they were attacked by an armed force but were able to make it back.

Around 1:00  AM Ambassador Stevens was found by local citizens and taken to a hospital where he was administered CPR for about 90 minutes but died from smoke asphyxiation he incurred while trapped in the building.

After midnight, a second attack on the CIA annex began.  CIA defenses were able to withstand the attack until the early morning hours.  At that time Libyan government forces met up with seven American reinforcements from Tripoli at Benghazi airport.

Around 5:00AM the Libyans and American forces arrived at the CIA annex to deliver 32 American  survivors back to evacuate through Benghazi airport.  Minutes after arriving, they were met with heavy enemy fire.  They took up defensive positions.

With a lull in the gun fire, Glen Doherty began searching for his friend Tyrone Woods.  He found him manning an MK46 machine gun on the roof of the annex.  Minutes later Woods was hit by mortar fire and killed.  After retaking a new position Glen Doherty was killed by a second mortar explosion.  

The remaining survivors escaped serious injury although fired upon while leaving as they were being evacuated to the airport.

The CIA had successfully rescued six members of the State Department, evacuated about thirty Americans out of Benghazi and recovered Smith's body.

Some sensitive documents remained in the diplomatic offices.  Some listed the names of Libyans working with Americans and some relating to oil contracts.

Here are some quick and easy things I think I have learned from this.

Agents that might have helped Stevens and Smith left the building where Steven's was hiding in order to get their weapons which were stored in a separate building.  My learning:  US embassies and diplomatic buildings should have a mini-arsenal conveniently located in each building where personnel are located.

The attackers entered the building and set fires.  These fires were apparently not put out by any fire extinguishers or automatic sprinkler systems in the buildings.  My learning:  US Embassy and diplomatic buildings should all be built with fire sprinkler systems.

Stevens and Smith were overcome by smoke inhalation.  There were no respirators or air supply lines in the safe area.  My learning: American Embassy and Diplomatic building safe areas should all be stocked with respirators and self-contained oxygen supplying units as standard safety equipment.

Sensitive documents were left behind.  This may endanger some of the allies of America.  My learning: Sensitive documents should be scanned and stored on computer storage devices and then destroyed.  The storage devices should be stored in specially constructed file cabinets that can safely self destruct at the push of a button.

These things would all cost money, so the Republicans in Congress will probably block any such ideas as they did once already.  People should not forget that it was the Republicans who denied the State Department $300 million in order to beef up Embassy security around the world.  This should also be a lesson learned: Republicans in Congress are willing to put American heroes in harms way and then when the inevitable worst thing happens, they are the first to point fingers away from themselves.

Of course, there may be other lessons to be learned from the attack on the diplomatic buildings and CIA annex in Benghazi, but trying to place blame on the Obama administration for the attack or for a cover-up serves no good purpose for America.  But then Republicans have demonstrated over and over, that they are the party that stands for no good purpose.

Republicans have proven that they hate this President with all their thoughts, words and deeds.  They are willing to push this story for any damage it can do and will insist that there is a link directly to the President, even when the facts prove otherwise.


Sunday, May 05, 2013

A love affair with guns

Cricket Rifles
By now I imagine most people have heard of the death of a two year old girl at the hands of her five year old brother who used his birthday present, a "Cricket" rifle, to commit the act.  A horrible tragedy that could only occur because of the availability of and parental approval of lethal weapons for children.  This is not the only case of an innocent child being killed by a gun.  There are thousands of others.

The "Cricket" rifle is sold by a Pennsylvania company called Keystone Sporting Arms.  The target market for these rifles is children.  There are no laws preventing this company from marketing rifles for children because the child does not purchase the rifle.

This loop-hole allows the manufacturer to escape following the existing Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, that prevents gun sales to minors.

The minds of young children are very impressionable.  Unsuspecting children are being trained by their gun-loving parents to develop the same love affair with guns as their parents.  Result...increased profits for the weapons manufacturers like those that make the"Cricket" rifle and a large number of children who lose their lives to guns. 

The NRA itself could not have thought of a better way to prolong the demand for guns.  Once parents have indoctrinated their kids into the culture of guns, firearm companies will see their profits continue to roll in for generations to come as the parental reinforcement cycle repeats itself over and over again.

Although the actions of the NRA in opposing recent background check legislation is disappointing, it is understandable since they must keep up the guise that they are protecting the second amendment in order to give their blood lust for gun sales a more legitimate justification. 

Some think that the key to preventing gun accidents with children rests with parents and to a large extent it does.  But that specific parental responsibility is required because society is forced to live with the availability of guns for young children.  Not everyone in a civil society agrees that children should be allowed lethal weapons. 

At one time the NRA was a gun safety organization but in today's world they seem to have gone the way of most large corporations and forsaken human decency for the profit motive. 

James Porter
On Monday, May 6, 2013 James Porter will become the new President of the NRA.  Radical gun owners rejoice.  If a war is needed with the government over gun regulation then Mr. Porter will ensure that one happens.  His harsh rhetoric, accusations and bigotry will guide his reign as the presiding NRA President.  Having chosen Mr. Porter as their new President, I'm thinking that the reason for the NRA's opposition to back-ground checks is because their new President would never pass one.

But in truth, the reason that Mr. Porter is the new NRA President is because Satan refused the position.