Showing posts with label Benefits. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Benefits. Show all posts

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Pulling Water From the Air




This device produces water from the air itself:

Created by Arturo Vittori and his team at Architecture and Vision, the towers harvest water from rain, fog and dew. This isn’t a new idea—people have been doing this for as long as they’ve needed water, often with air wells. Often built as high-rising stone structures, air wells gather moisture from the air and funnel it into a basin for collection. The WarkaWater functions in much the same way, using mesh netting to capture moisture and direct it into hygienic holding tank accessed via a spout.

And the reason why there aren't hundreds of these in California right now helping to irrigate cropland and alleviate drought? I haven't heard that reason. Perhaps we could implement a public works program to build better dams and store water for long term needs, but, really, if water is scarce, you could do a lot worse than make use of a device like this.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Your Scroll Bar Did Not Disappear




This is one of those rare occasions when Apple makes a mistake and assumes people can tolerate even a fraction of the change they were never looking for:

For longer than I care to admit, I have been unable to scroll down on my computer. This is only the latest in a series of laptop-related inconveniences, but, given the nature of my employment, is something of a problem. If you manage to catch the scrolling bar to the far right of the screen, you can generally navigate okay, but if you relax your vigilance for a moment and move your cursor, that option is closed, and it is necessary to refresh the screen. At least, that’s the only way I know how to do it.

See above for the answer...I struggled for days with our newly-upgraded MacBook and finally figured out what to do. I Googled the problem and someone coughed up an answer. That's how you do it nowadays. You look for people who are similarly challenged and copy them. What could go wrong?

Now, if this person doesn't have an Apple, then they're screwed and no one should care. But still...one should never be too proud to Google or beg.

Friday, May 30, 2014

And That's Not the End of It





“To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan..."


Shinseki is gone:

In the end, even Eric Shinseki knew he had to go, President Barack Obama said Friday in announcing the resignation of his only Veterans Affairs secretary over a growing scandal involving sometimes deadly waits for care at VA hospitals.


Obama went before reporters shortly after meeting with Shinseki at the White House and said the retired Army general told him that "the VA needs new leadership" to address the widespread problems chronicled in new reports this week, adding that Shinseki "does not want to be a distraction" to fixing the situation.


"That was Ric's judgment on behalf of his fellow veterans, and I agree. We don't have time for distractions. We need to fix the problem," Obama said.

When the boss has to leave under a black cloud, it sends a clear message to the underlings--you're next. The reason why it makes sense for Shinseki to leave is because the greedy, incompetent administrators below him need to be washed out of the VA like the fleas and lice they are, clinging to their bonuses and their schemes to profit personally while failing America's burgeoning corps of Veterans.

That's why I called for him to quit or be fired--there's no other way to remove the terrible, terrible management below Shinseki's level at VA. Someone new, someone tough, and someone with a clear mandate to remove incompetence and fraud from the ranks has to be empowered to do so. Shinseki was not that man anymore.

I would think that many of those engaged in malfeasance would have the decency to retire or quit in the weeks ahead. Many of them won't. They will cling to their lifestyle and continue to do nothing to take care of Veterans. They will continue to ride out the clock. They should not collect any more bonuses, however, and every administrator paid a bonus over the last ten years who presided over a hospital with secret wait lists and things of that nature should be prosecuted for fraud. Their bonuses should be paid back and their retirement benefits should be irretrievably revoked.

The Department of Veteran's Affairs is about benefits, after all. I don't think anyone who screwed Veterans and got paid should be able to retire on a comfortable pension and with full health care. I think that they should be cast out into the real world where so many dying and sick and Veterans have lived since coming back from Vietnam and wherever else. They have had no safety net. They have seen the promises made to them turn into a blizzard of paperwork, crushed under the heels of people who don't care about them while making three figure salaries, getting eight weeks off a year, and being paid ridiculously inflated personal performance bonuses.

To them I would say, welcome to the reality you were charged with improving. Screw you. You're on your own.

This does not end with Shinseki. This ends when the frauds and the thieves who cost this man his job are scrambling to find someone to take care of them while they cope with the aftermath of their personal pity party. This ends when a former bigwig administrator from the Phoenix VA Hospital has to use Coinstar to pay for meds at a discount grocery store in the middle of nowhere.

Monday, May 19, 2014

John Fund is a Serial Liar




Have you had enough insanity already for one week? Well, get ready for more.

John Fund has decided to weigh in on the Veteran's Administration scandal, and he uses this opportunity to rail against single-payer health care as opposed to the stupidity of actually creating many more Veterans than can be taken care of or treated. He wants you to know that single payer is the devil and ignore the fact that the VA has struggled because of the inability of Congress to fund the government and that is has been cut by repeated Republican Party efforts to stop providing benefits to the American people.

I mean, full stop--these are the people who shut down the government. That's what they care about--destroying the infrastructure that would normally provide health care to Veterans. Their ideology trumps giving the VA the resources it needs. And now a resource-starved VA has been exposed as a den of bonus-giving thieves, which probably justifies the Republicans but, really--what we have needed for years is more oversight and accountability. Kind of hard to have that when we're holding our eighth round of hearings about Benghazi.

These are the people who have denied funding bills and improvements in the VA health care system. These are the people who have no problems starting wars and creating millions of Veterans and then abandoning them while wearing an American flag lapel pin.

John Fund is doing a cartwheel here. The VA has a problem, and that problem is entirely because we havea single payer health care system in America. What kind of nonsense is that? Well, it's the kind peddled by serial liars in order to keep people from getting access to health care.

You see, the problems with the VA are apparent to everyone--there are too many Veterans and the people who are charged with taking care of them are incompetent. The VA's problems have nothing to do with single payer health insurance because the VA is a benefit, not an option. It has to be provided to Veterans. Thus, it has to be rationed because we're not charging Veterans for their health care costs.

Eric Shinseki's incompetence is why he should be fired. He's a good man who has had a difficult job. But the problems with the VA's information architecture and the ballsy bonuses paid to far too many inept and corrupt administrators means that the system has to be flushed of flunkies and useless people. The hallways of the VA are actually full of them--I have seen them myself. If you don't believe me, go see for yourself. Oh, wait. You can't unless you have a special visitor pass and access to the facility. But, if you can get one, go see haplessness in action.

The intellectually honest argument is thus--there are too many Veterans and we need a more efficient system of taking care of them. The John Fund argument--driven by decades of stupidity and lies--is this:

The veterans’ hospital scandals now in the news in the United States show just how bad things can get when the pressure of patient demand and waiting lists affects bureaucratic behavior. As many as 40 veterans reportedly died at a Phoenix veterans’ facility because they couldn’t get the care they needed. VA administrators there and at other hospitals apparently covered it up by establishing secret waiting lists and falsifying reports.

No one is suggesting that such scandals are widespread in the general health-care system. But they should serve as a warning sign of what could happen as the pressure to ration, inherent in all government-managed health care, is applied to the general population.

Never mind how funny it is for a conservative who bemoans government spending to launch a rant about rationing health care, what Fund really has a problem with is the distant history of Barack Obama:

This is the record of many single-payer health-care systems, and both Obama and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, have said that establishing a single-payer system is their long-term goal. In 2003, Obama, then an Illinois state senator, toldan AFL-CIO conference: “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health-care program. . . . But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately.” Similarly, Majority Leader Reid told a PBS interview show in Nevada, in October 2013: “What we’ve done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever.” When he was asked by a panelist whether he meant that ultimately the country would need a health-care system that abandoned insurance as the means of accessing it, Reid said: “Yes, yes. Absolutely yes.”

There you have it--when he was the State Senator from Illinois, he was already scheming to destroy the Veteran's health care system. Except, of course, when he was opposing the Iraq War.

I mean, come on. WTF? If you don't want to have to pay all that money to take care of Veterans, stop starting wars and creating millions of them. If you're John Fund and if you supported the War in Iraq, you don't get to bemoan the costs of the VA because, as Colin Powell says, you went into Pottery Barn and shit the bed, son.

Fund has long been an unethical serial liar:

MSNBC
SHOW: HARDBALL 21:00
January 31, 2003 Friday


MATTHEWS: John Fund, do you know what turned him [Colin Powell] around from a man who is perceived by the public to be dovish to a man who is the hard line fellow, very much like his fellow Cabinet members, Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney?


JOHN FUND, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Complete frustration Chris. He basically decided that Saddam Hussein was never going to come clean, that the process was completely flawed.


You know the same people who believe that global warming is absolutely proven and they’re not going to listen to anything else are the same people who will accept absolutely no evidence that Saddam Hussein is hiding something and including weapons of mass destruction. Colin Powell basically finally threw up his hands and said we have to act because the alternative is to let Saddam Hussein win the game, set and match, and the world cannot be blackmailed that way. ‘

How can anybody read anything by this man and not wonder how it is that he still has any presence at all in the media, conservative or otherwise? How is it that he did not slink away in shame and go peddle apples on skid row after 2006?




John Fund. Wrong about everything and not afraid to lie about it some more.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Good Guys and Bad Guys




Glenn Lieberman, scammer

The fact that there were scammers who used 9/11 to falsely claim disability should not come as a shock to anyone. You cannot expect complex organizations to be completely free of unethical employees. Each and every public service organization probably has a case or more of employees being caught claiming injuries that don't exist. Workman's compensation is riddled with such cases as well.

No, what's shocking is how stupid these people were:

On either side of Bratton and the other officials were two blown-up photos set upon easels. One was of retired cop Glenn Lieberman, who had received $175,758.40 from Social Security in addition to his NYPD pension after allegedly fraudulently attesting that he had been so traumatized by 9/11 that he was barely functional, unable to drive or shop or handle money. The picture shows him on a jet ski, flashing a big smile and giving the finger with both hands.

The other photo is of retired cop Richie Cosentino, who received $207,639.70 from Social Security under the same pretext, using nearly identical language. This picture was posted on his Facebook page and it shows him triumphantly holding a big sailfish fish he has just caught.
 


“It was an awesome day off the coast of Costa Rica,” he wrote.

He had better hope that the prosecutors do not take note of the date of the posting.
“September 11, 2012.”
 


On the 11th anniversary of 9/11, Cosentino clearly did not imagine that this photo would be shown at a press conference with him, not the fish, on display as the captured one.
As Bratton explained it, the investigation had commenced after Social Security investigators noticed that a considerable number of retired cops who had secured psychiatric disability awards had also applied for pistol permits.

“So we had a discrepancy,” Bratton said.

A discrepancy born of dumbassery, it would seem. Did this happen because the men involved in scamming the NYPD believed that they were above being shamed by malingering or claiming a phony disability? Did the ease with which it is possible to make money doing nothing entice far too many of them? Who knows?




You would think that a police officer claiming disability because he was traumatized by 9/11 would have marked the anniversary at home, quietly, and without drawing attention to himself. Instead, he went fishing in Costa Rica and put a picture up on Facebook. I guess going back to work is in order, huh?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Halving Britain for Pleasure




The disaffected north of England wants to leave, too.

If Scotland becomes an independent nation, there are many who will call for the further partition of England. Wales will want to go, too. Northern Ireland probably won't declare independence or join in with Ireland because of the need to maintain a separation of religious entities, but who knows?

My guess is that the vote on Scotland will be overwhelmingly for independence. The money from North Sea oil is too appealing not to allow for the Scots to put up an economic Hadrian's Wall. There are some, though, who want that wall to run through Manchester and allow for the upper half of Britain to go it alone.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Austerians All Around Me




Paul Krugman is being shrill again:

[...] it’s hard to see why France deserves any particular opprobrium. So again, what’s going on? 


Here’s a clue: Two months ago Olli Rehn, Europe’s commissioner for economic and monetary affairs — and one of the prime movers behind harsh austerity policies — dismissed France’s seemingly exemplary fiscal policy. Why? Because it was based on tax increases rather than spending cuts — and tax hikes, he declared, would “destroy growth and handicap the creation of jobs.” 


In other words, never mind what I said about fiscal discipline, you’re supposed to be dismantling the safety net. 


S.& P.’s explanation of its downgrade, though less clearly stated, amounted to the same thing: France was being downgraded because “the French government’s current approach to budgetary and structural reforms to taxation, as well as to product, services and labor markets, is unlikely to substantially raise France’s medium-term growth prospects.” Again, never mind the budget numbers, where are the tax cuts and deregulation? 


You might think that Mr. Rehn and S.& P. were basing their demands on solid evidence that spending cuts are in fact better for the economy than tax increases. But they weren’t. In fact, research at the I.M.F. suggests that when you’re trying to reduce deficits in a recession, the opposite is true: temporary tax hikes do much less damage than spending cuts.

The social safety net in France, which is socialism, of course, is actually helping to contain the economic damage that has been pervasive throughout Europe. Their health care costs are a fraction of our health care costs, Obamacare be damned. That's one major aspect of their economy that isn't following them around like a boat anchor in a wagon made with square wheels. Not every socialistic, evil idea is actually economically unsound, apparently. Otherwise, why would France be surviving Europe's economic debacles?




As we apply these facts to the situation in America, remember this: the presumptive nominees for the presidency in the Republican Party worship at the altar of austerity and would cut off their entire nose if it would spite their face and gain them a single primary victory in the deep South. Chris Christie has repeatedly refused to spend money to alleviate the suffering of people in his state unless, of course, they are people who might vote for him. And if you have an opinion different than his, he uses that old charm of his to scream hell into your face. Americans are going to vote for Christie because they want to see the fat man bellow at The Others and make the economy go bust on purpose. Hell, the man ought to just be handed the presidency outright.




The Republican Party loves poor rural white people. They've been making more and more of them for as long as anyone can remember and they're doing it through the old chicken wing technique. Austerity bends the economy's arm back like a chicken wing--try and make an honest living walking around like that.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Scam Continues


The graph that you see above is old data; it's from 2011. The wholesale scamming of money from Vets through the prism of the 21st Century GI Bill has not been addressed. What are these idiots screaming about? They could have done something years ago and they chose not to.
America made a commitment to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: In return for their service, the country would help pay for their college education when they came home. 
Since the Post-9/11 GI Bill went into effect in August of 2009, the federal government has paid more than $30 billion in tuition and benefits, according to new figures from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs released on Friday. The VA said this money has now helped 1 million vets, servicemembers and their families get college degrees or technical training. 
Most of this money goes to for-profit colleges and universities. Eight of the 10 schools receiving the most GI Bill dollars are for-profits, according to a 2012 report from the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP). 
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who chairs that committee, accuses some non-profits of using “predatory and deceptive tactics to target servicemembers and veterans for enrollment” in order to tap their federal educational benefits.
Tom Harkin has no credibility here, nor does anyone else in the Congress. Instead of bringing for-profit colleges to heel, they rolled over on regulating them and they have allowed the scam to continue. That's why the old graphic matters--it was plainly evident two years ago that there was a crisis because Veterans were throwing up their hands and choosing default when they couldn't translate their degrees into jobs . The Congress did nothing.

I used about two calendar years of my 3-year 21st Century GI Bill benefits. I have no student loan debt and I have my degree, a double major in History and English. It's a Bachelors of Science from the University of Maryland University College and it comes from a school that caters to Veterans and active duty service members. The only reason why this worked for me is because I didn't have to work for two and a half years. So, the benefit is still not generous enough and it should not go to any of the for-profit colleges that have issued worthless degrees to Veterans.

The transfer of education to Veterans that will help them get jobs should have been predicated on the idea that the only route to take would lead straight through an actual school or university with a credible degree program. The lobbying done by for-profit colleges and universities was successful. Veterans are not getting degrees or jobs, and they have been saddled with massive debt. Tom Harkin didn't do a goddamned thing to stop that when he could. Now we're supposed to believe this is news?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

I Do Not Want Your Thanks or Your Pity



I like everything about this piece by Alex Horton. He is truly a gifted writer and is capable of commenting on these issues in ways that our media complex simply cannot comprehend. He's way more eloquent than I am on this subject.

But the missing word in this piece is "guilt."

Horton writes about the pedestal that Veterans are put on, and that pedestal is constructed on a bedrock of shame and guilt. There are many reasons for the pedestal, but the main reason that I see is built around two kinds of guilt. There is the guilt that civilians feel when they're reminded that there actually are Veterans who served while they did not and then there is the guilt that comes from the people who should be doing something to help Veterans and simply won't. They won't because it will cost them money.

In some ways, there simply is no shame left in America. None. Shame for not having done something to guarantee our freedoms? That's an antiquated, remote idea in American public life. What did you do during the war Mommy and Daddy. We made money. Oh.

You have virtually an entire generation that didn't have to join the military because they had the economic opportunity not to serve, and they took that opportunity and now they see all of the praise given to Veterans. But it's hollow praise and it's based on the idea that they somehow need to feel sorry for the people who joined because they didn't have any other skills. That mindset has translated into "thank you for your service but we're looking for someone else" because "you would be qualified, except you couldn't make it in the real world, so you had to join the military." That pity is killing more Veterans than anything else because not allowing the normal to come back into their lives is what is exacerbating the economic cutoff and the social cutoff that keeps people from getting help and from getting their status in our society back.




Don't give them your pity. Give them a job, quit cutting their benefits, and quit running a for-profit educational system that is systematically draining people of money while giving them useless degrees.

What about the Veterans who are actually serving? We're kicking them out, we're housing them in cramped quarters, and we're denying them the right to register their legal spouse just because some Red State governors want to make a stand against gay marriage. How's that supposed to honor people who are serving?





Then you have all of the substandard people now serving on active duty who go out and kill themselves even though they have never been deployed. Why is that? Guilt, perhaps, but also a lowering of standards. We are still trying to force a military with 19th Century rules into a 21st Century reality without even bothering to figure out who is able to put something else ahead of their own basic needs and adapt to military service. They are on the pedestal, but they are failures at almost every level. We're not serving them well, either.

So, it's Veteran's Day, and no one talks about the guilt. The guilt of not having served and the guilt of serving while being a hot mess. Figure out where the guilt comes from and then we can have a discussion about why this generation is no different from any other. The "greatest generation" theme is badly flawed.




I dread Veteran's Day precisely because we use it to give false thanks and praise to people who need health care, jobs and a way back to a normal life. We just shut down the government, slashing these people out of their attempt at getting to normal, just so some wingnuts could stand at the edge of the World War II memorial and scream at some Government employees.

I am proud of my 7 years on active duty, grateful for never having heard a shot fired in anger, and I wish I had done more and been better at my job. Would I do it all over again? Of course not. This country thinks I'm a sucker because I put on the uniform.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Social Security Is Still Screwing Up?


The government just can't do anything right, can it?

I mean, isn't that what we keep hearing, day in and day out? We keep hearing how Obamacare is a nightmare (it isn't) and that no one is being helped by the new laws (patently untrue) and that our darned government is incompetent and we might as well stop trying to help people (whatever).

Even after 73 years of delivering benefits, the Social Security Administration is having a tough time figuring out how much and when to pay people, including Veterans. Not only are they dealing with the Veteran's Administration, they're dealing with Social Security as well. There are bugs in it and there are problems figuring out who gets what. Social Security has overpaid on benefits by over a billion dollars in some estimates, and figuring out who is entitled to what requires a great deal of tweaking and improving the system.

Why are people freaking out over the ACA website? Because it is the newest red-headed stepchild?

If you hate government, good for you. Enjoy your retirement benefits and your medical coverage. I'm sure it will be a sickening nightmare for you, especially the part where you have to fill out papers and prove you're not ripping off the government. Have a nice day!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Maryland vs Texas




Texas Governor Rick Perry has decided to live his life as a troll. Good for him. I hope he gets the help he needs before they try to run him for President again.

It is unseemly for a governor to decry other states for business reasons. Virtually all of America's corporations are incorporated in Delaware. Does Perry have an answer for that? Why not go after that low-hanging fruit and make it so that companies would actually want to incorporate in Texas. I remember that Austin, Texas used to be a hub for tech companies. How's Dell doing now?

I happen to be a person who moved directly from Texas to Maryland by way of a short stay in the country of South Korea. What a magical time that was. We went from no trees, blasting heat, and few, if any, government services to the place where we still live today. It's not as hot, the trees are way better, and we have a host of services available to us that we didn't have in Texas. Maryland has its problems, but at least--at least--it is not Texas.

Here in Maryland, nobody seems interested in letting a fertilizer plant next to a residential area blow sky high and kill people because, well, Freedom!