Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why Tiger Woods Will Never Win Another Major

By Dr. Sammy

Woods is instinctively a predator, on the course and off, and it's not clear that a kinder, gentler Tiger has the mental edge needed to win.
Why Tiger Woods Will Never Win Another Major
It's Thanksgiving Day, 2009. Tiger Woods is happily married, he's everybody's favorite golfer, and he owns 14 major golf championships. It is pretty much assumed that at some point in the coming few years he will tie and surpass Jack Nicklaus' record 18 majors, cementing himself as the greatest golfer in history.

That evening - and here the details are a bit fuzzy - but it seems that his wife Elin finally realizes that her devoted husband has been serial humping every cocktail waitress on five continents and in a fit of ... call it dismay, I guess ... attempts to neuter him with a 9 iron.

Let's review Tiger's competitive results since that moment:
2010 Masters T4
2010 US Open T4
2010 British Open T23
2010 PGA T28
2011 Masters T4
2011 US Open DNP
2011 British Open DNP
2011 PGA Missed Cut
2012 Masters T40
2012 US Open T21
2012 British Open T3
2012 PGA T11
2013 Masters T4
2013 US Open T32
2013 British Open T6
2013 PGA T40
2014 Masters DNP
2014 US Open DNP
2014 British Open 69
In sum, 19 majors have been played. Woods took part in 15 of them and has zero hunks of hardware to show for his trouble.

Over the weekend, as Rory McIlroy closed in on his first Open Championship and third major overall, I found myself listening to a lot of sports radio as I drove around running errands. As is always the case, the subject was as much Tiger as it was Rory. That's how it works: no matter who's winning, the subject is always Tiger. Specifically, a series of hosts and guests wanted to talk about the most important question in sports: will Tiger ever win another major?

The verdict was almost unanimously yes, and individual opinions ranged from sure, he'll probably he'll win another one to heck, he could win a bunch more. The reasoning centered primarily on his health and age. In short, he hasn't won any since Obama's inauguration due to injury, and he's still young enough, by golfer standards. Only a matter of time.

I respectfully disagree. Yes, Woods has battled injuries. And yes, a number of majors have been won by golfers older than he is right now. I have no problem with these arguments, per se.

But they're the wrong arguments. Tiger's losing streak isn't a function of physical issues, it's a function of his mental issues. He's lost the Eye of the Tiger, as it were, and if he doesn't get it back he's done. And he is unlikely to get it back.

Wait, you may be thinking. Tiger has won a lot of tournaments since the scandal. True - eight of them, I think. He was the PGA Player of the Year, the PGA Tour Player of the Year,  the leading money winner and the Vardon Trophy winner just last year.

However - and this is key - no majors. And only majors count. Who says so? Tiger does.
I once listened to a radio interview as the host tried to engage Tiger Woods on the topic of his legacy, with the general thrust being “what if you don’t break Jack Nicklaus’s record for most majors?” Repeatedly – as in six or seven questions in a row – Woods refused to even acknowledge the possibility. He just kept answering with one word: “Eighteen.” As in, the number of major tournament victories needed to equal Jack’s epic tally.
So in Tiger’s head, nothing matters in life past wins at the British, US Open, Masters and PGA. Other tournaments are nice, I’m sure, but they don’t really count and second in a major is last.
If that's the only standard that matters to him, who are we to argue?

Woods' historic successes arose as much from his psychology, his attitude, as they did from his athletic and technical skills. And that psychology wasn't just an on-the-course thing - it was the same psychology that drove him to hound-dogging every woman he laid eyes on.

Woods doesn't have a shot in his bag that dozens of other players on the tour don't have, but he had, once upon a time, a relentless confidence, a killer instinct and an unparalleled mental toughness that let him make those shots more consistently and under greater pressure, and in doing so this edge let him put his opponents under even greater pressure. All the true greats have/had it: Jordan, Rivera, Montana, Borg, Pelé, Gretzky. They were born for crunch time.

If you know sports, you understand that the difference between tenth and second is nowhere near as great as the difference between second and first. More often than not, at the highest levels of competition the gap between first and second is almost purely mental.

It's also true that psychology can be fragile. Athletes need to be in just the right zone to succeed. Sometimes that means the right system, the right position, the right coach, even the right city. There have been guys who were naturally comfortable in smaller markets who just couldn't hack it under the glaring lights of the big city. A superstar striker (like Red Bull star Thierry Henry) might languish if you move him outside (which happened when he left Arsenal for Barcelona a few years back).

Even weekend warriors know what I'm talking about. I had to be near the top of the order in baseball, for instance. If I wasn't hitting somewhere in the leadoff to cleanup range - preferably first or third - I felt like I was being punished. I'm not excusing my attitude, and I know that hitting 8th and hitting leadoff have a lot in common: it's the same pitcher, the same bat, the same ball, the same umpire, the same hard slider. But my lifetime average in the 6-9 slots was probably a good hundred points lower than it was when I was hitting 1-5. There was no reason but my own head.

The question I'm easing up on is the one none of the highly paid network or newspaper pundits seems interested in addressing: to wit, can a kinder, gentler Tiger Woods be successful the way that the appalling alpha-douchebag, King of the World Tiger was?

Let's face it, that look in Tiger 1.0's eye coming down the back nine on Sunday with a three-shot lead was the same look he probably had as he stared out past the velvet rope. On the course it was "hand me the 8-iron and watch me step on this bitch's neck." Off the course he was like Al Czervik in a brothel: "bring me the blonde, the redhead and three of the brunettes. I'll have one of those, three of those, a box of these.... Hey, everybody, we're gonna get laid!"

Tiger 1.0 was a predator, on the course and off. And that was central to his identity. It was more than what he did. It was who he was.

When the details of his sexcapades began trickling out - day by interminable day - it set up a fairly predictable chain of events, including the non-apology apology press conference, rehab (because cocktail waitresses are an addiction - I'm pretty sure it says so in DSM-V somewhere) and eventually a divorce that reportedly cost him more hundreds of millions of dollars than I have hundreds of dollars.

The key in here was the rehab part, because it was critical that Tiger change. The werehound-on-a-Viagra-and-angel-dust-cocktail act had to change if he hoped to salvage his brand and his marriage (and let's not kid ourselves, it was in that order).

So he did rehab. He made an effort to be nicer to people (an effort that frankly looked liked it was painful for him), to acknowledge the existence of reporters and to limit the number of F-bombs dropped per round. All of which goes in service of the goal of making Tiger a better human being.

But to what extent did the process of building the nicer, cuddlier Tiger 2.0 neuter the essential edge he needed to dominate the game of golf? If you'll pardon me putting it this way, to what extent does his on-course success hinge on the F-bombs, treating reporters, regular people and other peasants like lepers and fucking every woman in sight? Can you significantly alter the man's fundamental essence without compromising the psychology that made him one of the two greatest golfers in history?

So far, the answer seems to be no.

I hate to be cynical, and I always like to believe the best of people, especially those working hard to do things the right way. I don't know Woods (don't really want to, truth be told), and I can't assess from personal experience his state of mind, his sincerity, and most importantly, his attempts to hitch his physical gifts to a psychology that's clearly alien to him.

But we know that he was treated like a golden god from the time he was a toddler, and he has been pressured, since that fateful Thanksgiving night, to behave like, to be, something I don't believe he intuitively understands.

I have no idea how athletes at any level and in any sport can be expected to succeed if, in crunch time, they have to abandon their instincts and instead of being themselves, be their antiselves.

It's entirely possible that when all is said and done, the only road back to the top for Tiger Woods runs directly through a gauntlet of porn stars, high-priced professionals and cocktail waitresses.
That's not a pretty picture to contemplate, I know, but humans are complex animals.

So are Tigers.

About Dr. Sammy

Dr. Sammy's picture
Sam Smith is a writer and photographer living in Bend, Oregon. He's the founder and publisher of Scholars & Rogues and by day works in the exciting world of marketing. Sam holds a PhD from the University of Colorado and loves craft beer, Chelsea FC and Scottish Terriers perhaps a bit more than is strictly healthy.

The Republicans Lie – About Everything

By Hrafnkell Haraldsson

Republican dishonesty, not only about what they do and what they would like to do, but about the world we live in, are endemic. And the situation is getting steadily worse as Republicans daily seem more unhinged, leaving liberals and progressives shaking their heads in dismay.

Do you remember last year when Public Policy Polling revealed that more Louisiana Republicans blame President Obama for the mishandling of Katrina relief efforts than blame President Bush? It is a matter of public record that Barack Obama was only a freshman senator then, while Bush had been president for half a decade. Almost half of Louisiana Republicans didn’t know who to blame.

Of course, Republicans have also blamed Obama for the Iraq War and routinely pretend that there were no terrorist attacks on U.S. soil while Bush was president (9/11 anyone?).

Not only that, but Fox News has excised any subsequent Bush-era terrorist attacks from public memory. Republicans have also conveniently forgotten that Bush presided over the economic collapse of 2008. Obama wasn’t elected until November 4 of that year and did not take office until the following January.

Of course, President Obama is currently being blamed for the immigration crisis at the border that Republicans are responsible for. Bush signed the law; Obama gets blamed.

Republicans attack President Obama for taking too many vacation days. In reality, as Al Sharpton pointed out on August 9, 2013,
[Obama] has taken 92 days of vacation since he was sworn in. How many did President (George W.) Bush take by the same point in his presidency? Three hundred and sixty seven. Yes, more than a full year of vacation.
PolitiFact has rated this statement “mostly true” in that Bush spent some working vacation days at his Texas ranch. I remember Bush being on vacation all the time; Republicans don’t even remember Bush.

Republicans want to sue and impeach President Obama for signing executive orders, even though he has issued far fewer executive orders than President Bush, whose executive orders were not the object of Republican complaint.

For example, on September 25, 2012, FactCheck.org pointed out that “Obama has issued 139 executive orders as of Sept. 25 [2012]…Bush issued 160 executive orders through Sept. 20, 2004, a comparable amount of time.”

As of June 20, 2014, Obama had signed 182 executive orders. Bush signed 173 in his first term alone, and 291 during his entire presidency.

Again, if you want to count executive orders you can do so; it’s a matter of public record and the University of California Santa Barbara helpfully tracks them by year and president. Republicans prefer just making stuff up because the facts do not agree with the fantasies they want to push.

Republicans have claimed Obama is adding to the deficit (while they add to it themselves via tax breaks for their rich owners) when in fact he has been steadily reducing the deficit. In fact, last year, Obama shrank the deficit to a 5-year low. And as Paul Krugman points out, there was never a crisis in the first place. As with all their other scandals, it was manufactured by conservatives to advance their anti-Social Security and Medicare agenda.

Democrats like to believe that when they engage the Right in debate that they do so on more or less equal terms. Both sides are, after all, comprised of sentient human beings. But Republicans have given substance to the old childhood taunt, “I am rubber, you are glue, words bounce off me and stick to you.”

They are literally impervious to facts.

And not only is President Obama magically to blame for all Bush’s manifest misdeeds, he is somehow also to blame for every misdeed committed anywhere in the world.

Everything that happens is somehow Obama’s fault and John McCain has turned himself into Chuck Norris, able to strangle the butterfly that flapped its wings in Siberia to prevent a typhoon hitting the West Coast. Only John McCain, who voted for the Iraq War, could have stopped the Iraq War.

This must make sense only to Republicans, who nod their heads sagely.

If only they could do so in strait jackets, which is arguably where they belong.

Republicans live in a world where women’s bodies magically repel unwanted sperm and where some equally mysterious alchemy turns sperm in the anus into the AIDS virus, where such a thing as “legitimate rape” exists and global warming and evolution do not.

This is a world where slavery really wasn’t so bad and anyway, whites were the real victims, apparently moping about and wishing they could be slaves too.

And what do you say to egregious and sustained Republican insistence that racism is a distant memory, or that women have attained equality of pay with men? Of all people, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has no right to call a Democrat delusional, not when the platform and ideology of his party is completely founded on delusion.

Tough to tell if any of those things are crazier than creationist Ken Ham calling for an end to the space program because any aliens we find are going to hell anyway, as though the Space Program was ever a proselytizing effort. In the end, how does one compare and rate samples of excrement?

Ham’s real problem is that if the space program continues, we are almost certain to find life on another world – and sooner rather than later – thus bringing his creationist fantasy down around his ears.

This is a world where Kirk Cameron knows more than Stephen Hawking, where he and others can throw stones even while complaining they are being stoned. I could go on, but this article would never end, because, by myself, I can’t keep up with the fast and furious flow of Republican mendacity.

Far from creating a straw man, Republicans have created a straw country, one where nothing is as it seems, one that has no relationship – not even a passing resemblance – to the actual fact-based world in which we live.

In short, Republicans lie.

They lie about everything.

They even lie about lying.

The world laughs. The Democrats – and the American people – are left holding the bag.

The Republicans Lie – About Everything was written by Hrafnkell Haraldsson for PoliticusUSA.

Idaho tribe cancels Ted Nugent casino concert over rocker’s racist comments

By Travis Gettys

Ted Nugent David Defoe Flickr
[Image: Ted Nugent Live via Flickr/David Defoe]
A Native American tribe called off a scheduled performance by Ted Nugent over concerns about the rocker’s history of racist and hateful statements.

Nugent had been slated to perform Aug. 4 at the Couer D’Alene Casino in Worley, Idaho, until the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch called Monday to ask about the concert.

The Hatewatch blog reported that tribal officials “sounded completely caught off-guard” by the request for comment, but the tribe abruptly cancelled the performance later that day.

“The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has always been about human rights – for decades, we have worked individually and as a Tribe to make sure that each and every person is treated equally and with respect and dignity,” the tribe said in a statement.

The blog reported that Laura Stensgar, the executive marketing director for the casino, apparently made the decision or approved of it.

But she said after the cancellation that the tribe did not want the casino to be used as a platform for the “racist attitudes and views that Ted Nugent espouses.”

Nugent, whose hits include “Stranglehold” and “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang,” has made numerous offensive comments – many during performances, when he sometimes wears an Indian head dress.

“Unfortunately, when we booked him, we were looking at him from an entertainment perspective, as an 80's rock ‘n roller, who we thought folks might enjoy,” Stensgar said.

She and the tribe’s chairman, Chief Allan, expressed regret for booking Nugent to perform.

“We know what it’s like to be the target of hateful messages and we would never want perpetuate hate in any way,” Allen said in a statement.

A Texas town paid Nugent $16,000 not to play at its Fourth of July event this year after complaints arose over his scheduled performance.

The GOP's 'crude' intentions

Republicans refuse to show a united front during a time of foreign crisis, instead criticizing the President and push an agenda to lift decades of crude oil bans. Ed Schultz, Rep. Jim McDermott and Mike Papantonio discuss.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Republican Ideology Has Its Worst Week Ever

By Becky Sarwate


Though you’d never guess by listening to its representatives speak, it was a terrible week for modern Republican ideology.

Those right-wingers who love to call President Obama weak on foreign policy, setting him in relief against their favorite bare-chested strongman Vladimir Putin, are scrambling to crawl under the nearest rock.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the icon of conservative male virility lent support to war criminals who shot 80 children from the sky.

Per a report from the Associated Press:

“On Thursday, Putin blamed Ukraine for the crash, saying Kiev was responsible for the unrest in its Russian-speaking eastern regions. But he didn’t accuse Ukraine of shooting the plane down and didn’t address the key question of whether Russia gave the rebels such a powerful missile.”

If gathering rumors are to be believed, Russian interlopers may have already absconded to Moscow with Malaysian Airlines Flight 17′s “black box” recorder. And as of Saturday morning, the crash site in Eastern Ukraine remains unsecured.

As evidence decays and/or is purposefully tampered with, Putin’s Thursday statement may be the closest thing we ever get to an admission of the truth. A wise person once told me that when an unpleasant man tells you something about himself, believe him. And by shying away from implausible deniability (a sport in which the Russian thug routinely indulges), Putin is speaking loud and clear.

Russian sponsorship of the downing of the defenseless civilian airliners. Yeah, that’s real bravery.

Keep talking McCain Nation.

Moving onto another human tragedy a little closer to home, the Republican Party continued its parade of heartless, xenophobic double talk about the Central American child immigrant crisis.

Even as Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper offered a ray of humanitarian hope in writing, “If Denver or other communities in Colorado want to offer their support and sponsorship while these children are in the legal system, the state respects and would defend that decision,” and Pope Francis publicly cautioned the devout to love and protect the kids, a dark strain of ugliness continued to permeate the official GOP response.

This past week, retired medical doctor and Republican House member Phil Gingrey told NBC News, “The border patrol gave us a list of the diseases that they’re concerned about, and Ebola was one of those…I can’t tell you specifically that there were any cases of Ebola, I don’t think there were, but of course Tuberculosis, Chagas disease, many – small pox, some of the infectious diseases of children, all of these are concerns.”

These alarmist and disgusting comments continue to undercut our nation’s once-vaunted reputation as a refuge for freedom seekers. On a secondary level, you have to wonder if the GOP understands that they won’t be able to erase Hispanic voter memory in 2014 and beyond. Yet the certainty that the party is briskly digging its own electoral grave doesn’t do much to relieve the dire and fearful predicament of the kids. They’ve run from terror only to be treated as enemy invaders by the Land of the Free.

This year has been unbelievably tough for those in favor of contemplative, deliberate foreign policy, sensible gun and comprehensive immigration reforms and last but not least, liberty for the GOP’s most discounted “special interest group” – women.

New York Times commentator Timothy Egan makes the case this week that the SCOTUS’ disastrous Hobby Lobby decision does more than assault female reproductive freedom. It also takes a swipe at our founding principle – the separation of church and state.

He writes, “In the United States, God is on the currency. By brilliant design, though, he is not mentioned in the Constitution. The founders were explicit: This country would never formally align God with one political party, or allow someone to use religion to ignore civil laws. At least that was the intent. In this summer of the violent God, five justices on the Supreme Court seem to feel otherwise.”

As Americans continue to grapple with the Supreme Court’s increasingly partisan suppression of human rights in favor of corporate ones, the media is finally (finally!) beginning to take the five Catholic male justices responsible to task in a semi-bipartisan way. Meanwhile, Democratic Congressional leaders are trying to develop and pass legislation that would grant women access to everything promised by the Affordable Care Act. May they be relentless.

It was a week when modern Republican claims to be defenders of freedom, limited government and human dignity were clearly exposed as money and power grabbing, racist scams. Individual rights trump all else – except for women who want to make their own family planning decisions.

Give us your tired and your poor – unless they are frightened brown children. We have no money to take care of them properly as dictated by law. Those funds are subsidizing the lifestyles and business ventures of the one percent. And that weak-willed, effeminate Obama. If only he’d man up and covertly supply terrorists who murder international civilians like that macho Vladimir Putin.

Conspiracy radio host Alex Jones calls MH17 downing a false flag

By Tom Boggioni
Sunday, July 20, 2014 18:34 EDT
Alex Jones2
Assembling a collection of newspaper headlines, out of context quotes, and rumors of unsourced tweets, analysts and correspondents for Alex Jones’ Info Wars have cast doubt upon the evolving consensus that Russian separatists in the Ukraine shot down flight MH17, explaining that the downing of the flight is a ‘false flag,’ designed to foment an international war in the region.

Introducing the segment, Lee Ann McAdoo said, “Here we are, teetering on the edge of World War III, and the globalists really seem to be accelerating their plan. It used to be a lot easier to convince the masses of whatever  their  global agenda was with the propaganda arm of the media.”

McAdoo went on to explain that the globalists, “…used to set small fires here and there, fires that we could easily stamp out here at Info Wars. But now, they’re just going to go ahead and set the whole world on fire all at once.”

Pointing out that within 24-hours of the downing of flight MH17, the “neo-con wing of the establishment has already decided that Russia is to blame,” McAdoo shared clips of Senator John McCain and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggesting that Russia or Russian separatists might be involved, with neither asserting it as a fact.

McAdoo suggested the jetliner could have been shot down by Ukrainian forces or might have been an accident.

Comparing the missile attack on the Malaysian airliner to the sinking of the Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898, precipitating the Spanish–American War, Info Wars David Knight explained that the international media is indulging in ‘yellow journalism,’ in the manner of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.

Knight shared a cartoon from the era showing American citizens being searched for secret messages to Spain and compared it to TSA pat-downs at the airport. Knight additionally claimed that President Obama was using the crash as a distraction from other world events, including hostilities in the Gaza Strip.

Asking why MH17 was flying over war-torn Ukraine, even though it was not prohibited, Knight added that the flight was asked by the air controller to fly at 32, 000 feet, making it easier to shoot down and lower that American flights which traditionally fly at 35,000 feet. Knight did note that 32,000 feet is consistent with European flights.

Referring to an unspecified video  having something to do with the crash, an Info Wars correspondent pointed out  conflicting time stamps without pointing out what it meant, before adding the authenticity of videos information was “unconfirmed.”

Info Wars’ Paul Joseph Watson  helped connect the dots suggesting that Ukraine was responsible for shooting the plane down instead of Russia, by reporting on “panicked tweets” from a Spanish air-controller who was in the tower at Kiev Boryspil airport who claimed — “unconfirmed”– that “three minutes before the radar tower lost contact with the Malaysian airlines plane, it had Ukrainian fighter jets surrounding it. He said Kiev shot it down.”

The Spanish air-controller also tweeted that Kiev authorities threatened tower employees telling them to “shut up.”

Watson noted that, unfortunately the Twitter account has now been deleted.

As further evidence many mentions were made of the Ukraine shooting down a Siberia Airlines Flight 1812  in 2001, stating that the country had a history of shooting down airliners.

No correspondent mentioned the downing of KAL 007 in 1983 by Russia.

Watch the video below from Info Wars:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

GOP ready to tank the economy

Republicans refuse to make a deal to finance the highway trust fund—and if they don’t act by August 1, Congress will have to cut highway and infrastructure by 28 percent, putting 700,000 jobs at risk.

Rev. Al Sharpton discusses with Jared Bernstein and Krystal Ball, co-host of “The Cycle.”

MSNBC's Republican Loving Morning Blow and Chuck Todd Are Losing To The Weather Channel

By Jason Easley

scarborough-todd Things got so bad for MSNBC’s conservative-leaning shows Morning Joe and The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd that they lost with younger viewers to The Weather Channel last month.

According to TVNewser, “While the show got off to a slow start in March, “AMHQ” has been seeing some bright spots. For the month of June, “AMHQ” topped the 7am-10am hours on MSNBC in the A25-54 demo by +3%. On July 4, “AMHQ” averaged 173,000 total viewers, outranking MSNBC, CNN and HLN.”

Let’s toss out the bad ratings for MSNBC on July 4th, because regular hosts are on vacation and it is significant weather day as most people are outdoors for cookouts and fireworks. It is telling that two hours of Morning Joe and one hour of Chuck Todd’s The Daily Rundown were beaten by the weather in the month of June. It wasn’t the middle of hurricane season so extreme weather events were not dominating the news. The other essential point is that MSNBC didn’t lose to The Weather Channel with older viewers. They lost with people age 25-54. This is the demographic that the Lean Forward network is targeting.
The problem at MSNBC remains that the people running the network continue to give the viewers what they don’t want. MSNBC viewers don’t want to hear three hours of inside the Beltway talk led by a host who sings the praises of the Republican Party.

Chuck Todd’s MSNBC show is more balanced than Scarborough’s, but still features so much Beltway conventional wisdom that is so out of step with the rest of the country that it is easy to see why Todd is not popular with the MSNBC faithful.

MSNBC incorrectly believed that by getting younger hosts they could attract younger viewers. This has not happened. Most of the worst performing shows on MSNBC (Ronan Farrow to name one) are fronted by the younger hosts.

MSNBC loves Joe and Mika. They will never make a change to their morning show unless they are forced to. The network adores them, because they are a mostly steady second-place finisher behind Fox and Friends in the ratings. MSNBC isn’t listening to what their viewers want, but things have reached a whole new level of bad when the network’s centerpiece morning show is losing to The Weather Channel.
MSNBC is capable of doing much better, but it won’t until those who are calling the shots start giving viewers what they really want.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Philly VA benefits center is in stunning disarray

VA´s Philadelphia Regional Office , on Wissahickon Avenue. The VA inspector general said investigators found manipulated claims, duplicate payments. ANDREW THAYER / Staff Photographer
VA's Philadelphia Regional Office , on Wissahickon Avenue. The VA inspector general said investigators found manipulated claims, duplicate payments. ANDREW THAYER / Staff Photographer

By Tricia L. NadolnyInquirer Staff Writer

Inspectors surveying Philadelphia's Veterans Affairs benefits center in June found two stunning signs of disarray: mail bins brimming with claims dating to 2011 and other benefits that had been paid twice.

More alarming, the team from the VA Office of Inspector General found evidence that staff tasked with managing pensions for the eastern United States were manipulating dates to make old claims appear new, according to a report obtained by The Inquirer.

The findings are the first clear evidence that the city's VA system is not immune from controversies that have plagued other centers and sparked a growing scandal over delayed care and services affecting veterans nationwide.

Two whistle-blowers who work at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Regional Office, where the offenses were discovered, described the process the same: "cooking the books."

"They're hiding the real numbers from the people and saying, 'We're catching up to the backlog,' " said Ryan Cease, 31, who has worked at the Germantown facility for about five years. "But they're not. They're just hiding it."

The inspector general's review was released by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs ahead of a Monday night hearing in Washington at which it will be presented.

Separate from the ongoing probe into appointment-setting practices at the VA Medical Center in University City, the report focuses on the VA Regional Office on Wissahickon Avenue, which oversees the administration of benefits to 825,000 veterans in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware. The site also houses a Pension Management Center, one of three nationwide, that services more than a dozen states and Puerto Rico.

In a statement released jointly, the Philadelphia and national VA offices said they have taken immediate actions to correct the practices in Philadelphia. The national office added that it is conducting on-site reviews at other regional offices where potentially similar issues have been identified.

The Inspector General's Office declined to discuss the review in Philadelphia, saying any public comments will be made at Monday's hearing.

Tip received
The probe at the city's regional office was sparked June 18, when the inspector general received a tip from a whistle-blower, according to the report.

A team visited the site the next day.

There, they found employees were manipulating dates through the misapplication of a May 2013 VA memo that allows claims overlooked in veterans' files to be marked with the date on which they were found, known as the "discovered date."

The clearance - which the VA gave a few months after it laid out an aggressive plan to eliminate its crushing backlog by the end of 2015 - was meant for rare occasions.

But staff at the Philadelphia regional office's Pension Management Center have used the clearance to mark the discovered date on claims that didn't fit the criteria, the inspector general found. The action made claims look as though they were newer than they were, the report said. The inspectors, whose investigation is ongoing, found 30 occurrences on the June visit.

Kristen Ruell, a lawyer and a whistle-blower from the Philadelphia office who is scheduled to testify at Monday's hearing, said the discovered-date loophole is widely used and has been since it was instituted.

She said managers first instructed those processing claims to use the discovered date for claims a year or older. As the 2015 deadline nears, that has changed, and more recently staff members were told to use it on claims as little as six weeks old, she said.

"They basically use this as a free ticket, like the golden ticket, to make their old stuff new," said Ruell, 39, who has worked at the center for about seven years.

When the VA instituted the discovered date in 2013, it said each use had to be accompanied by an explanation and approved by a top administrator, after which notice would be sent to a higher office. In each of the 30 cases found in Philadelphia, explanations were not given. But the center's assistant director still signed off on the change, the report found. Notices were never sent.

In a statement, the VA said the inspector general had discovered "confusion and misapplication" of the policy at the Philadelphia regional office and said that the discovered-date practice has since been suspended nationwide.

Regional offices found to have an unusual number of applications of the policy have been referred to the inspector general for review, and any cases impacted by the lapse will be identified and corrected, the agency said.

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said any employee found to have "intentionally misused this policy will be held accountable," according to the statement.

Other allegations
The VA Inspector General's Office said its probe also must address other allegations at the Philadelphia regional office. They include:

Staff "cherry picking" easy claims and processing them out of order to inflate performance.

Staff not addressing more than 32,000 electronic inquiries from veterans regarding the status of their claims.

Staff hiding mail.

Staff shredding military and returned mail that couldn't be delivered.

Managers being aware of duplicate payments being made to veterans and directing staff to write off the overpayments.

The agency said the regional office is providing additional guidance and training to address the duplicate payments.

It also said the 68 mail bins of papers dating to 2011 were sorted, and all the documents were found to be associated with completed claims and are now being electronically scanned. The inspector general said the old mail, which included both claims and supporting documents, was of concern because decisions on claims could have been made without all the necessary information.

The VA, in its statement, said the office is also being investigated on allegations that staff members have faced retaliation for speaking with the inspectors.

Ruell said the inspectors visited the site in June after she told a friend and former employee from the center about her concerns, and he notified the inspector general.

It's not the first time Ruell and Cease have gone up against their employer. In 2012, both spoke to the New York Times about finding duplicate records that were leading to duplicate payments.

Ruell said the practice of doctoring claim dates stems from staff being rated on performance through a point system and expected to process claims "perfect and fast."

"It's like a system designed to fail," she said. "So it breeds a lot of issues where people are trying to play tricks to look good for Washington."

As new controversy at the Philadelphia regional office comes to light, details of the ongoing review of the city's VA hospital are still being tightly guarded. The facility, the regional hub for more than 57,000 veterans, and a clinic it runs in Horsham, were flagged to receive added scrutiny in a nationwide VA audit released last month.

That review of 731 sites across the country found some employees have used alternate lists or changed dates to hide delays in service. Administrators at the hospital have said they do not expect willful manipulation of data to be found and suggested faulty bookkeeping might be to blame.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Detroit TV Reporter in Hot Water on MSNBC

Channel 4 reporter Hank Winchester lies on the poor people of Detroit and Maureen Taylor beats his ass & drops the mic on him.

The World We've Constructed Is Far Beyond George Orwell's Worst Nightmare

By John Pilger

 Orwell's chilling vision of the future in '1984' is happening today in the form of media manipulation and unnecessary wars.

The other night, I saw George Orwells’s 1984 performed on the London stage. Although crying out for a contemporary interpretation, Orwell’s warning about the future was presented as a period piece: remote, unthreatening, almost reassuring. It was as if Edward Snowden had revealed nothing, Big Brother was not now a digital eavesdropper and Orwell himself had never said, “To be corrupted by totalitarianism, one does not have to live in a totalitarian country.”
Acclaimed by critics, the skilful production was a measure of our cultural and political times. When the lights came up, people were already on their way out. They seemed unmoved, or perhaps other distractions beckoned. “What a mindfuck,” said the young woman, lighting up her phone.
As advanced societies are de-politicized, the changes are both subtle and spectacular. In everyday discourse, political language is turned on its head, as Orwell prophesied in 1984. “Democracy” is now a rhetorical device.  Peace is “perpetual war”. “Global” is imperial. The once hopeful concept of “reform” now means regression, even destruction. “Austerity” is the imposition of extreme capitalism on the poor and the gift of socialism for the rich: an ingenious system under which the majority service the debts of the few.
In the arts, hostility to political truth-telling is an article of bourgeois faith.  “Picasso’s red period,” says an Observer headline, “and why politics don’t make good art.” Consider this in a newspaper that promoted the bloodbath in Iraq as a liberal crusade. Picasso’s lifelong opposition to fascism is a footnote, just as Orwell’s radicalism has faded from the prize that appropriated his name.
A few years ago, Terry Eagleton, then professor of English literature at Manchester University, reckoned that “for the first time in two centuries, there is no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the western way of life”. No Shelley speaks for the poor, no Blake for utopian dreams, no Byron damns the corruption of the ruling class, no Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin reveal the moral disaster of capitalism. William Morris, Oscar Wilde, HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw have no equivalents today. Harold Pinter was the last to raise his voice.  Among the insistent voices of consumer- feminism, none echoes Virginia Woolf, who described “the arts of dominating other people … of ruling, of killing, of acquiring land and capital”.
At the National Theater, a new play, Great Britain, satirizes the phone hacking scandal that has seen journalists tried and convicted, including a former editor of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. Described as a “farce with fangs [that] puts the whole incestuous [media] culture in the dock and subjects it to merciless ridicule”, the play’s targets are the “blessedly funny” characters in Britain’s tabloid press. That is well and good, and so familiar. What of the non-tabloid media that regards itself as reputable and credible, yet serves a parallel role as an arm of state and corporate power, as in the promotion of illegal war?
The Leveson inquiry into phone hacking glimpsed this unmentionable. Tony Blair was giving evidence, complaining to His Lordship about the tabloids’ harassment of his wife, when he was interrupted by a voice from the public gallery. David Lawley-Wakelin, a film-maker, demanded Blair’s arrest and prosecution for war crimes. There was a long pause: the shock of truth. Lord Leveson leapt to his feet and ordered the truth-teller thrown out and apologized to the war criminal. Lawley-Wakelin was prosecuted; Blair went free.
Blair’s enduring accomplices are more respectable than the phone hackers. When the BBC arts presenter, Kirsty Wark, interviewed him on the tenth anniversary of his invasion of Iraq, she gifted him a moment he could only dream of; she allowed him to agonize over his “difficult” decision on Iraq rather than call him to account for his epic crime. This evoked the procession of BBC journalists who in 2003 declared that Blair could feel “vindicated”, and the subsequent, “seminal” BBC series, The Blair Years, for which David Aaronovitch was chosen as the writer, presenter and interviewer. A Murdoch retainer who campaigned for military attacks on Iraq, Libya and Syria, Aaronovitch fawned expertly.
Since the invasion of Iraq – the exemplar of an act of unprovoked aggression the Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson called “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” — Blair and his mouthpiece and principal accomplice, Alastair Campbell, have been afforded generous space in the Guardian to rehabilitate their reputations. Described as a Labour Party “star”, Campbell has sought the sympathy of readers for his depression and displayed his interests, though not his current assignment as advisor, with Blair, to the Egyptian military tyranny.
As Iraq is dismembered as a consequence of the Blair/Bush invasion, a Guardian headline declares: “Toppling Saddam was right, but we pulled out too soon”. This ran across a prominent article on 13 June by a former Blair functionary, John McTernan, who also served Iraq’s CIA installed dictator Iyad Allawi. In calling for a repeat invasion of a country his former master helped destroy , he made no reference to the deaths of at least 700,000 people, the flight of four million refugees and sectarian turmoil in a nation once proud of its communal tolerance.
“Blair embodies corruption and war,” wrote the radical Guardian columnist Seumas Milne in a spirited piece on 3 July. This is known in the trade as “balance”. The following day, the paper published a full-page advertisement for an American Stealth bomber. On a menacing image of the bomber were the words: “The F-35. GREAT For Britain”. This other embodiment of “corruption and war” will cost British taxpayers £1.3 billion, its F-model predecessors having slaughtered people across the developing world.
In a village in Afghanistan, inhabited by the poorest of the poor, I filmed Orifa, kneeling at the graves of her husband, Gul Ahmed, a carpet weaver, seven other members of her family, including six children, and two children who were killed in the adjacent house. A “precision” 500-pound bomb fell directly on their small mud, stone and straw house, leaving a crater 50 feet wide. Lockheed Martin, the plane’s manufacturer’s, had pride of place in the Guardian’s advertisement.
The former US secretary of state and aspiring president of the United States, Hillary Clinton, was recently on the BBC’s Women’s Hour, the quintessence of media respectability. The presenter, Jenni Murray, presented Clinton as a beacon of female achievement. She did not remind her listeners about Clinton’s profanity that Afghanistan was invaded to “liberate” women like Orifa. She asked  Clinton nothing about her administration’s terror campaign using drones to kill women, men and children. There was no mention of Clinton’s idle threat, while campaigning to be the first female president, to “eliminate” Iran, and nothing about her support for illegal mass surveillance and the pursuit of whistle-blowers.
Murray did ask one finger-to-the-lips question. Had Clinton forgiven Monica Lewinsky for having an affair with husband? “Forgiveness is a choice,” said Clinton, “for me, it was absolutely the right choice.” This recalled the 1990s and the years consumed by the Lewinsky “scandal”. President Bill Clinton was then invading Haiti, and bombing the Balkans, Africa and Iraq. He was also destroying the lives of Iraqi children; Unicef reported the deaths of half a million Iraqi infants under the age of five as a result of an embargo led by the US and Britain.
The children were media unpeople, just as Hillary Clinton’s victims in the invasions she supported and promoted – Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia — are media unpeople. Murray made no reference to them. A photograph of her and her distinguished guest, beaming, appears on the BBC website.
In politics as in journalism and the arts, it seems that dissent once tolerated in the “mainstream” has regressed to a dissidence: a metaphoric underground. When I began a career in Britain’s Fleet Street in the 1960s, it was acceptable to critique western power as a rapacious force. Read James Cameron’s celebrated reports of the explosion of the Hydrogen bomb at Bikini Atoll, the barbaric war in Korea and the American bombing of North Vietnam. Today’s grand illusion is of an information age when, in truth, we live in a media age in which incessant corporate propaganda is insidious, contagious, effective and liberal.
In his 1859 essay On Liberty, to which modern liberals pay homage, John Stuart Mill wrote: “Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end.” The “barbarians” were large sections of humanity of whom “implicit obedience” was required.  “It’s a nice and convenient myth that liberals are peacemakers and conservatives the warmongers,” wrote the historian Hywel Williams in 2001, “but the imperialism of the liberal way may be more dangerous because of its open-ended nature: its conviction that it represents a superior form of life.” He had in mind a speech by Blair in which the then prime minister promised to “reorder the world around us” according to his “moral values”.
Richard Falk, the respected authority on international law and the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, once described a “a self-righteous, one-way, legal/moral screen [with] positive images of western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence”. It is “so widely accepted as to be virtually unchallengeable”.
Tenure and patronage reward the guardians. On BBC Radio 4, Razia Iqbal interviewed Toni Morrison, the African-American Nobel Laureate. Morrison wondered why people were “so angry” with Barack Obama, who was “cool” and wished to build a “strong economy and health care”. Morrison was proud to have talked on the phone with her hero, who had read one of her books and invited her to his inauguration.
Neither she nor her interviewer mentioned Obama’s seven wars, including his terror campaign by drone, in which whole families, their rescuers and mourners have been murdered. What seemed to matter was that a “finely spoken” man of colour had risen to the commanding heights of power. In The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon wrote that the “historic mission” of the colonized was to serve as a “transmission line” to those who ruled and oppressed. In the modern era, the employment of ethnic difference in western power and propaganda systems is now seen as essential. Obama epitomizes this, though the cabinet of George W. Bush – his warmongering clique – was the most multiracial in presidential history.
As the Iraqi city of Mosul fell to the jihadists of ISIS, Obama said, “The American people made huge investments and sacrifices in order to give Iraqis the opportunity to chart a better destiny.” How “cool” is that lie? How “finely spoken” was Obama’s speech at the West Point military academy on 28 May. Delivering his “state of the world” address at the graduation ceremony of those who “will take American leadership” across the world, Obama said, “The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it. International opinion matters, but America will never ask permission …”
In repudiating international law and the rights of independent nations, the American president claims a divinity based on the might of his “indispensable nation”. It is a familiar message of imperial impunity, though always bracing to hear. Evoking the rise of fascism in the 1930s, Obama said, “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fibre of my being.”  Historian Norman Pollack wrote: “For goose-steppers, substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarization of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manqué, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while.”
In February, the US mounted one of its “color” coups against the elected government in Ukraine, exploiting genuine protests against corruption in Kiev. Obama’s national security adviser Victoria Nuland personally selected the leader of an “interim government”. She nicknamed him “Yats”. Vice President Joe Biden came to Kiev, as did CIA Director John Brennan. The shock troops of their putsch were Ukrainian fascists.
For the first time since 1945, a neo-Nazi, openly anti-Semitic party controls key areas of state power in a European capital.  No Western European leader has condemned this revival of fascism in the borderland through which Hitler’s invading Nazis took millions of Russian lives. They were supported by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), responsible for the massacre of Jews and Russians they called “vermin”. The UPA is the historical inspiration of the present-day Svoboda Party and its fellow-travelling Right Sector. Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok has called for a purge of the “Moscow-Jewish mafia” and “other scum”, including gays, feminists and those on the political left.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has ringed Russia with military bases, nuclear warplanes and missiles as part of its Nato Enlargement Project. Reneging on a promise made to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 that Nato would not expand “one inch to the east”, Nato has, in effect, militarily occupied eastern Europe. In the former Soviet Caucasus, Nato’s expansion is the biggest military build-up since the Second World War.
A Nato Membership Action Plan is Washington’s gift to the coup-regime in Kiev. In August, “Operation Rapid Trident” will put American and British troops on Ukraine’s Russian border and “Sea Breeze” will send US warships within sight of Russian ports. Imagine the response if these acts of provocation, or intimidation, were carried out on America’s borders.
In reclaiming Crimea — which Nikita Kruschev illegally detached from Russia in 1954 – the Russians defended themselves as they have done for almost a century. More than 90 per cent of the population of Crimea voted to return the territory to Russia. Crimea is the home of the Black Sea Fleet and its loss would mean life or death for the Russian Navy and a prize for Nato. Confounding the war parties in Washington and Kiev, Vladimir Putin withdrew troops from the Ukrainian border and urged ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine to abandon separatism.
In Orwellian fashion, this has been inverted in the west to the “Russian threat”. Hillary Clinton likened Putin to Hitler. Without irony, right-wing German commentators said as much. In the media, the Ukrainian neo-Nazis are sanitised as “nationalists” or “ultra nationalists”. What they fear is that Putin is skilfully seeking a diplomatic solution, and may succeed. On 27 June, responding to Putin’s latest accommodation – his request to the Russian Parliament to rescind legislation that gave him the power to intervene on behalf of Ukraine’s ethnic Russians – Secretary of State John Kerry issued another of his ultimatums. Russia must “act within the next few hours, literally” to end the revolt in eastern Ukraine. Notwithstanding that Kerry is widely recognised as a buffoon, the serious purpose of these “warnings” is to confer pariah status on Russia and suppress news of the Kiev regime’s war on its own people.
A third of the population of Ukraine are Russian-speaking and bilingual. They have long sought a democratic federation that reflects Ukraine’s ethnic diversity and is both autonomous and independent of Moscow. Most are neither “separatists” nor “rebels” but citizens who want to live securely in their homeland. Separatism is a reaction to the Kiev junta’s attacks on them, causing as many as 110,000 (UN estimate) to flee across the border into Russia. Typically, they are traumatized women and children.
Like Iraq’s embargoed infants, and Afghanistan’s “liberated” women and girls, terrorized by the CIA’s warlords, these ethnic people of Ukraine are media unpeople in the west, their suffering and the atrocities committed against them minimized, or suppressed. No sense of the scale of the regime’s assault is reported in the mainstream western media. This is not unprecedented. Reading again Phillip Knightley’s masterly The First Casualty: the war correspondent as hero, propagandist and mythmaker, I renewed my admiration for theManchester Guardian’s Morgan Philips Price, the only western reporter to remain in Russia during the 1917 revolution and report the truth of a disastrous invasion by the western allies. Fair-minded and courageous, Philips Price alone disturbed what Knightley calls an anti-Russian “dark silence” in the west.
On 2 May, in Odessa, 41 ethnic Russians were burned alive in the trade union headquarters with police standing by. There is horrifying video evidence.  The Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh hailed the massacre as “another bright day in our national history”. In the American and British media, this was reported as a “murky tragedy” resulting from “clashes” between “nationalists” (neo-Nazis) and “separatists” (people collecting signatures for a referendum on a federal Ukraine). The New York Times buried it, having dismissed as Russian propaganda warnings about the fascist and anti-Semitic policies of Washington’s new clients. The Wall Street Journal damned the victims – “Deadly Ukraine Fire Likely Sparked by Rebels, Government Says”. Obama congratulated the junta for its “restraint”.
On 28 June, the Guardian devoted most of a page to declarations by the Kiev regime’s “president”, the oligarch Petro Poroshenko.  Again, Orwell’s rule of inversion applied. There was no putsch; no war against Ukraine’s minority; the Russians were to blame for everything. “We want to modernize my country,” said Poroshenko. “We want to introduce freedom, democracy and European values. Somebody doesn’t like that. Somebody doesn’t like us for that.”
According to his report, the Guardian’s reporter, Luke Harding, did not challenge these assertions, or mention the Odessa atrocity, the regime’s air and artillery attacks on residential areas, the killing and kidnapping of journalists, the firebombing of an opposition newspaper and his threat to “free Ukraine from dirt and parasites”. The enemy are “rebels”, “militants”, “insurgents”, “terrorists” and stooges of the Kremlin. Summon from history the ghosts of Vietnam, Chile, East Timor, southern Africa, Iraq; note the same tags. Palestine is the lodestone of this unchanging deceit. On 11 July, following the latest Israeli, American equipped slaughter in Gaza – 80 people including six children in one family — an Israeli general writes in the Guardian under the headline, “A necessary show of force”.
In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl and asked her about her films that glorified the Nazis. Using revolutionary camera and lighting techniques, she produced a documentary form that mesmerized Germans; it was her Triumph of the Will that reputedly cast Hitler’s spell. I asked her about propaganda in societies that imagined themselves superior. She replied that the “messages” in her films were dependent not on “orders from above” but on a “submissive void” in the German population. “Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked. “Everyone,” she replied, “and of course the intelligentsia.”
John Pilger, renowned investigative journalist and documentary film-maker, is one of only two to have twice won British journalism's top award; his documentaries have won academy awards in both the U.K. and the U.S. Pilger’s new film, "Utopia," about Australia, was released in Australia in January. www.johnpilger.com

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sade - Cherish The Day

Music video by Sade performing Cherish The Day. (C) 1992 Sony Music Entertainment UK Limited


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cranky John McCain stumbles in confused bluster

Rachel Maddow shares video of Senator John McCain complaining about not being able to bring a cell phone into immigration detention facilities while confusing the names of the officials at whom he is ranting.