Monday, May 19, 2014

VA Testimony: Shinseki Is 'Mad as Hell' but Refuses to Resign

Being mad won't help.  Basic reform is needed.  Give people a perverse set of incentives and they will behave perversely

Dogged by a widening scheduling scandal that first came to light in Phoenix but has now reportedly spread to at least six other VA facilities, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki rebuffed calls for his resignation in Congress this week. He boldly informed a Senate panel, “I intend to continue this mission until I have satisfied [my] goal or I’m told by the commander in chief that my time has been served.” He did, however, say that he’s “mad as hell” about the allegations, so we’ll see if that translates into positive action.

As one of Obama’s original appointees, Shinseki has overseen the VA since before its 14-day wait-list metric for patients was established three years ago. The metric determined that a patient should be seen no more than two weeks from his or her initial call, but the two-week goal has been ignored by a growing number of VA facilities. In fact, a VA office in Gainsville, Florida, was just found to have a secret wait list full of 200 veterans.

Also troubling are the harmful cost-cutting measures allegedly being implemented on Shinseki’s watch. A whistleblower who formerly worked for a newly created Texas VA center found problems with the new facility’s HVAC system and backup generator that endangered a sterile surgical environment, but more disturbing still was a course of care that called for three positive fecal screenings before allowing for a colonoscopy. Dr. Richard Krugman, the whistleblower, says such delays can cost lives, because, “By the time that you do the colonoscopies on these patients, you went from a stage 1 to a stage 4 [colorectal cancer], which is basically inoperable.” Patients would then perhaps die at home or in a private hospital, off the VA records.

Krugman says the same Texas facility deleted 1,800 orders for service to eliminate a backlog and pass an inspection. Evidently, he blew the whistle on one too many things, however, as he was put on administrative leave before being fired in 2012.

Shinseki’s agency obviously has its hands full with this investigation, so Barack Obama has enlisted Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors to assist the probe. Shinseki welcomed Nabors as “a fresh set of eyes.” As its mission, the VA sets 230,000 appointments a day and faces pressure from both ends: Vietnam-era veterans who are now facing the ailments of old age as they reach their sixties and seventies, coupled with the needs of younger veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

As we’ve said before, the problems that plague the VA are surely a harbinger of things to come for the overall health care system under ObamaCare. Its big problem is how to fund care for older and sicker people with few younger and healthier individuals willing to pay a higher premium. But the failures at the VA are practically inherent to any bureaucracy – ineptitude, indifference and self-protection are baked into the cake. It sure would be helpful if a “fresh set of eyes” also looked at the current American health care system.



Fighting fire with fire

Conservatives have long sat by as radical progressive liberals curb-stomp anyone who disagrees with their ideology. On principle, we refuse to boycott anything. That’s a tactic of the left, and the right likes to stick to the high ground, even though it means losing ground every day to the forces of tyranny.

Well, enough is enough.

I’d never heard of the Benham brothers before they had their yet-to-be-launched HGTV show pulled before it aired because their Christian, pro-traditional marriage views were deemed unacceptable to progressives. HGTV caved to pressure, which is its right, and progressive activists cheered, as is also their right. But the progressive activists weren’t content with keeping these brothers in obscurity. They wanted oblivion for them.

After blocking their TV show, progressives set out to destroy the Benham brothers. Before they (almost) had a TV show, the Benhams had a successful real-estate business with Sun Trust Bank, contracting to sell properties for the bank. Then, on Friday morning, under pressure from progressives groups, Sun Trust dropped the brothers, potentially ruining them.

It wasn’t enough for progressives to keep the brothers from being on TV (a real-estate show where their views never would have been an issue, or even known by the audience). They think wrong, so they had to be destroyed. But they can’t destroy them on their own, they needed accomplices. Enter Sun Trust.

I don’t know Sun Trust Bank. I don’t use it. But I was prepared to pledge to never use it, and to call for you to join me in that unless and until they reversed their decision. Well, by the end of the day on Friday that decision was reversed by Sun Trust because people who refused to be bullied threatened to do just that.

There’s a lesson here if we’re willing to learn it.

Conservatives resist boycotts because they believe them to be a liberal tactic, which may be true. But they work. By refusing to use them, conservatives render themselves irrelevant.

I have no love for the Benham brothers, nor do I particularly agree with the statements they’ve made that birthed these events. But I wholeheartedly support their right to hold these views. They didn’t hurt anyone. They didn’t commit violence or a crime. They simply strayed from what progressives deem acceptable thought, and for that they have been targeted. That is un-American.

It doesn’t matter what you think of gay marriage, abortion or any religion. The idea that people could be targeted and harmed for simply differing on these issues should bother you. Because, while today it may be something you don’t care about, it someday will be something you care about. You either speak up now or be prepared to find no ears when you most need your voice to be heard.

Sun Trust was willing to cave to progressive pressure on this issue because it’s usually the only real pressure ever exerted on companies. And if companies are willing to cave to a little pressure from the left, what issue won’t they cave on? What issue will progressives next apply pressure on them to suppress? When will that intersect with something important to you? Are you willing to wait till that happens?

Companies should not be caving to such left-wing pressure, but the only way to stop them, to send the message of “no more,” is to apply the same pressure from the center and the right. A threatened customer exodus from Sun Trust will put it on notice, but it also could put on notice every company who gets a letter from GLAAD, the National Action Network, People for the American Way, PETA, MoveOn, Media Matters or any other fascistic group, that capitulation could have consequences.

Progressives use boycotts because they work; pretending they don’t is folly. The only way to change that fact is to send a clear message to companies that doing so will have repercussions too. Not sending a message now will be sending the biggest message of all – those who oppose the progressive agenda are a toothless, deaf, blind guard dog, a doormat for their whims. To do nothing would be like drawing a red line only to see it crossed and pretending you never drew it in the first place, or pretending a Twitter hashtag will cause terrorists to change their ways.



"Heaven is for Real" and the Gospel of Life

Paul Kengor finds consolation in his faith for his never-born children.  I have NINE never-born children to mourn but I mostly deal with it by not thinking about it

I recently bought the book “Heaven is for Real” and saw the movie. That was unusual for me. I don’t typically do the books and movies everyone else is doing, especially the touchy-feely spiritual ones. Maybe it’s the snob in me, or, really, I just don’t like to do what the culture is doing. But this time, I made an exception.

The story is about the near-death experience of a four-year-old named Colton Burpo, a pastor’s son from Nebraska. I’ll say up front that I didn’t care much for the movie, unlike the book. The screenwriter took too many shortcuts and liberties and redirections with new characters. Most annoying was the sexualizing of the little boy’s mother, Sonja Burpo. Don’t get me wrong, she’s no Miley Cyrus or Madonna, but she’s repeatedly represented in an alluring, suggestive, sensual manner. I was almost expecting a nude scene.

The writer/director, Randall Wallace, explained Sonja’s portrayal this way: “So many people believe that Christians, and particularly the wives of ministers, would be these sexless, sweet, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-their-mouths kind of people, and that was the opposite of what I thought Sonja was or should be. And Kelly [Reilly, the actress who plays Sonja] just had this sense of romance and charisma—you couldn’t take your eyes off of her.”

Really? Who are these “many people” who think of Christian women this way? Must we cater to narrow-minded secularists who imagine that the vast sea of American churches they never visit have no attractive women inside? If some 20-something “progressive” New Yorker is that insular and prejudice, too bad. Let’s not tailor to his ignorance by sexualizing the church-mom in a story about a little boy’s visit to heaven. I wonder how the real life Sonja Burpo feels about this portrayal of her.

But on the positive side, there was much about young Colton’s story that was compelling and convincing.

Generally, both the movie and book detail things that this child, even as a minister’s son, couldn’t have known ahead of time. I don’t have the space to detail all of those here. You’ll need to see for yourself. Actually, read the book first, because it details these things far better and more believably than the movie. But I will share just one especially poignant example that really touched me when I viewed the movie trailer; in fact, it prompted me to buy the book first.

Well after he has come home from the hospital and recovered, Colton one day out-of-the-blue tells his mother that he has two sisters. Sonja casually corrects him, “No, Colton you have your [one] sister.”

“No,” Colton responds. “I have two sisters. You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?”

“Who told you I had a baby die in my tummy?” a stunned Sonja responds to her four-year-old.

“She did, Mommy. She said she died in your tummy.”

Sonja is speechless. She had a miscarriage a few years before Colton’s birth, but no one ever told little Colton. How did he know? He knew because he said he met the deceased sister in heaven.

A shocked Sonja, long grieved by that miscarriage, asks Colton the girl’s name. He tells her that she doesn’t have one, because mommy and daddy never gave her one. The crushed Sonja responds that they indeed didn’t name her, because they never knew she was a she. It’s okay, Colton tells his mother, she’s fine, she has hair just like yours, and God has adopted her: “she just can’t wait for you and Daddy to get to heaven.”

This scene really hit me. My wife and I have a bunch of kids, but between the second and third there were miscarriages. I’ve often thought about those unborn lives. Should I pray for them? Are they indeed children waiting for us? This innocent, hopeful account by this little boy really struck me. A cynic might say that this is a purely emotional response, that this book/film pushed my buttons. But I’m not like that. I think there’s more to it. Consider: My faith teaches that life begins at conception. I know it. I believe it. I write about it. I teach it.

So, if that’s the case, then why wouldn’t I believe that those miscarriages, which were lives that began at conception, are waiting in heaven, just as the lives that make it out of the womb go to the other side?

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Did it take little Colton Burpo’s feel-good story about how heaven is for real, to help me—this chastened writer and academic—understand that those unborn lives are also for real, in heaven?

Call me a sentimentalist, but something about this particular account of heaven struck me as really real.



Classy: Democrats Accuse Iraq War Veteran/Congressional Candidate of Cowardice

Allen West

I find utterly despicable the latest salvo launched against Lee Zeldin who is running for U.S. Congress in New York. As The Daily Caller reports, The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is accusing the Iraq war veteran of being a “coward,” prompting calls for an apology from the GOP. In a post on its website, the campaign arm of the House Democrats is asking whether Republican Lee Zeldin is being cowardly about Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget.

I happen to know Lee Zeldin, still an Army Reserve Major who served on active duty with the 82nd Airborne Division — he is far from being a coward. I mean, really?

The text of the post by the DCCC is as follows; “Over a month after his House Republicans passed Paul Ryan’s reckless budget, Congressional Candidate Lee Zeldin is still too scared to admit how he would vote for the plan, even though he wants Long Islanders to send him to Congress,” the DCCC said in a release. “Even though every member of Congress had no choice but to vote yes or no weeks ago, what’s taking him so long to decide? There’s only one answer: Zeldin is either woefully uninformed, willfully ignorant or a coward.”

To add insult to injury, a DCCC spokesman posted a tweet with a picture of Zeldin’s face on the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz.

The Left possesses a deep-seated animus towards those who serve in uniform, regardless of their patronizing comments. Their actions speak volumes, and they especially despise veterans who seek political office. The sense of duty, honor, country, integrity, and character that our military promotes — those simple values such as courage, commitment, loyalty, and selfless service — are not appreciated by progressive socialists. Sadly, those values are considered useless and antiquated by the Left. Or as Greg Gutfeld says in his book, Not Cool.

Obama and his liberal progressive acolytes display their true colors when it comes to our military — as they decimate it and demean those who have served in it. We can indeed do better America!



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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