Thursday, October 5, 2017

It demands a comment

Harvey Weinstein is trash.

He's paid people to attack other films to try to win awards for his own.

He was obviously trash.

But so many wanted to get close to him.

Including Hillary Clinton.


Weinstein was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton's recent presidential run and donated to her political campaigns about 10 times between 1999 and 2016, according to a review of campaign finance records.
Weinstein's donations to Clinton over the years total more than $20,000 and span from her successful campaign for U.S. Senate in New York in 2000 to her unsuccessful presidential campaigns of 2007 and 2016. He also donated to her husband's presidential campaigns in the 1990's.

Harvey Weinstein has been exposed as a serial abuser of women -- he's used sexual harassment as a tool.

He needs to be shunned.

And Hillary needs to issue a statement because she's already defended Bill from women who've said he harassed them and raped them while insisting she fights for women.

She needs to say something.

She has a pattern of being surrounded by men she should have avoided.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, October 5, 2017.  Whatever happened to the VA backlog?  Did it go away?  Or did the press on it just vanish?

Senator Johnny Isakson: Do you believe you have the tools with that legislation to expedite and clean up the legacy of appeals that exist before it today?

Cheryl Mason: Yes, thank you for that question.  Yes, I do. 
 She does?
Year after year, for over a decade now, in hearing after hearing, members of Congress have asked VA officials if they have enough tools, enough money, enough everything to address the veterans backlog.
Year after year, for over a decade now, in hearing after hearing, they tell Congress that they do.
And yet the backlog remains.
Senator Iskakson is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Senator Jon Tester is the Ranking Member.  Yesterday, the Committee held a hearing.  We'll note this press release that the office of Committee Chair Johnny Isakson issued:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today held a hearing to consider the qualifications of three nominees to serve in various U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) roles.
At a hearing on the nominations of Melissa Sue Glynn to serve as VA assistant secretary for Enterprise Integration, Cheryl L. Mason to be chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and Randy Reeves to be  VA undersecretary for Memorial Affairs, Isakson noted that each possessed the experience and qualifications needed to excel in their respective roles. He cautioned, however, that the VA must continue to be accountable and responsive to veterans.
“One of our greatest obligations as elected officials is to ensure the seamless transition into civilian life for our veterans,” said Isakson. “I have full confidence that each nominee will use their vast experience to do great work on behalf of our nation’s heroes. If confirmed, I look forward to working with each of them in their future roles at the VA.”
About the nominees:
Glynn previously led Alvarez and Marsal’s public-sector practice focused on improving the delivery of government programs, and K-12 and higher education. Prior to that, she was a principal with PricewaterhouseCoopers and was responsible for the firm’s work with the Department of Veterans Affairs. A New Jersey native, Glynn holds a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.
Mason is nominated to serve as chairman of the Board of Veterans Appeals for a term of six years. She is the currently the interim principal deputy vice chairman at the Board of Veterans Appeals. She previously served as deputy vice chairman, chief veterans law judge, veterans law judge, and counsel at the Board of Veterans Appeals. Mason’s government experience also includes serving as an attorney at the Federal Labor Relations Authority and as an Air Force civilian employee in Europe. She received her bachelor’s with distinction in political science and psychology from Ohio Northern University and her law degree from Creighton University School of Law.
Reeves currently serves as executive director of the Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board and serves as president of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs. He is a retired commander and surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy. Prior to being commissioned in the Navy, Reeves served as an enlisted airman in the U.S. Air Force. He received his bachelor’s degree in management from Peru State College in Nebraska and a master’s degree in health sciences. He also completed the senior executive program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 115th Congress. Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the armed services as well as more than 750,000 veterans.

Contact: Amanda Maddox, 202-224-7777
Camlin Moore, 202-224-9126

It was a brief hearing with the Committee leadership dispensing with the reading of opening statements to move the hearing along more quickly.

We're going to focus on the issue of the backlog because we remember, in 2009, then-Secretary Eric Shinseki insisting he would break the backlog.

Shinseki is gone.

The backlog remains.

From yesterday's hearing, we'll note this exchange.

Senator Mazie Hirono: This is from Ms. Mason.  How many attorneys are there at the veterans appeals board?

Cheryl Mason: Currently, we have approximately 700 attorneys.

Senator Mazie Hirono: And you have a backlog of about 150,000 cases. I know that you are aware that there is a move to increase the number of cases that each attorney is supposed to complete from 125 cases annually to 169 cases annually.  And if my math is correct, you have 700 lawyers, that gets you to 118,000 cases once this new standard is implemented.  So is that how you'll came up with the number of cases that each lawyer should complete?

Cheryl Mason:  The-the-the evaluation for determining, uh, how the attorney, uhm, productivity has been in progress for the past, uh, for all of the FY '17 and we started off FY '18, correct, with a-a response a-a request to our attorneys to do a extra case a week.  The-the-the, uh, the productive standards, we currently have in place that asks our attorneys for 169 a year also allows for deduction of leave and holiday time factored in.

Senator Mazie Hirono: Mm-hmm.

Cheryl Mason: So based on the data, uhm, that we have from previous years, we expect that actually the attorneys will be producing approximately 144 decisions per person this year.

Senator Mazie Hirono: Do you use paralegals?

Cheryl Mason: We do not at this time.

Senator Mazie Hirono: Since all the appeals are not as complex -- they're not all equal -- would you consider using paralegals to address some of the backlog to get rid of some of the so-called 'easier' cases?

Cheryl Mason: Thank you for that question.  That's actually one of the areas that I'm looking at as re-engineering the board's processes and figuring out where we can get some im-impact to those, uhm, less complex cases.

Senator Mazie Hirono: Mm-hmm.

Cheryl Mason: Yes, that is something that I, if confirmed, would look at.

Senator Mazie Hirono: I think it makes a lot of sense -- with 150,000 backlog -- to basically triage the kind of cases that you have and move things along.  And is the workload for your lawyers -- because they are unionized -- is that a subject of negotiations with the union?

Cheryl Mason: It is.  This past year, we have, uh, sat down at the table with our, uh, union partners, uh, several times at the beginning of FY '17.  We sat down and agreed to a non-productivity standard at their request.  We tried that for one quarter and we lost approximately 4,000 cases.  And so we implemented a lesser standard than we had had before.  But we, uh -- And we routinely, uh, sit down and speak with them and assess how that's doing, get feedback from our -- from-from our union partners on how that's going.  And, if confirmed, I would continue to do that going forward.  I think it's very important to have a strong, open, communicated relationship with our union partners. 

Senator Mazie Hirono: So as far as the performance standard, the number of cases that each attorney is supposed to handle every year, that is something that you would work out with your union?

Cheryl Mason: Absolutely.  That-that is an area -- Thank you for the question.  That is an area that we always must assess continually to-to gain the appropriate workload balance while ensuring that we're serving veterans to the best of our ability.

And let's stay with the topic to note this exchange.

Senator Mike Rounds: I'd like to follow up a little bit more with the direction that Senator Hirono was going with regards to the claims backlog.  With 150,000 claims in the backlog, 700 attorneys working on it, I'm just curious, do you know right now what the average number of new claims coming through is that-that we're processing?  

Cheryl Mason: I-I would have to ch- uhm -- Thank you for that, uh, question, sir.  I, uh, I would have to check with, uh, my partners at Veterans-Veterans Benefits Administration.  But I, uh, believe that we receive approximately 1.4 million claims a year.  Of that amount, approximately 13% are appealed to the Board of Veterans Appeals.

Senator Mike Rounds: So, right now, if-if -- that means that if you were looking at it on a chronologic -- and I recognize that some of these are much older -- you've got basically a year's backlog work in terms of it would constantly be one year behind based on the current work.  Fair?  And I being -- I know that some of these are considerably older than that, some of them are newer than that.  But, uhm, basically one way to analyze that is you've got a year's work in the backlog?

Cheryl Mason: Yes, that, uh [. . .]

Let's stop there.

Grasp that the backlog is still huge.  Grasp that no one's even raising the issue of how old some of these cases are.

The VA has gotten everything they have asked for.

Not only have they received everything they've asked for, they've been offered far more and refused it.

Their standard excuse, for example, for over a decade has been that more money for new hires means they slow down production because they have to pull people to train new hires.

So they've been offered the moon and the stars, turned down the stars saying it would slow them down, and yet they still don't have their act together.

Let that sink in.

That is the message of yesterday's hearing.

What's the message in Iraq?

ALJAZEERA reports that Hawija has been liberated or 'liberated' from the Islamic State.  Which prompts this Tweet:

US excuse to be against referendum was the war against . Now is virtually free of . What is the excuse?

Good question.

What is the excuse now?

NEW: U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have liberated Hawija, the last ISIS stronghold in northern Iraq

Again, what is the excuse now?

Two Islamist enemy regimes come together in their common aim to oppress Kurdish minority at home and crush Kurdish aspirations in Iraq.

Let's note this from WSWS:

The WSWS published Monday an article reporting on the New York Times' interview with WSWS International Editorial Board Chairperson David North, which was sent out in the last newsletter. 

In response to the Times article, North issued the following statement:

“The WSWS’ exposure of Google’s attack on democratic rights is being widely followed and is having a substantial impact. The article that appeared in the Times was in preparation for a month. Its own research confirmed that traffic to the WSWS has fallen dramatically. When asked by the Times to answer our allegations, Google chose to stonewall its reporter. If Google had been able to refute the WSWS, it would have provided the evidence to Mr. Wakabayashi. It failed to do so because our charges are true. Google is engaged in a conspiracy to censor the Internet.

“Google’s effort will fail. Awareness is growing rapidly that core democratic rights are under attack. Google is discrediting itself as its name becomes synonymous with manipulating searches and suppressing freedom of speech and critical thought.

“The World Socialist Web Site will not retreat or back down from this fight. We are confident that our fight against government and corporate-sponsored censorship will continue to gain support.”

The WSWS’s petition protesting Internet censorship is gaining support, and has received nearly 4,500 signatures.

Over the past several weeks, Indian supporters of the International Committee of the Fourth International took the campaign against Google’s censorship of the World Socialist Web Site to workers in Chennai, and to students at the city’s Madras and Anna universities.

Ganesh, a 28-year-old government worker, said: “Blocking information is a dictatorial measure. Governments and big companies are trying to prevent us from finding critical information.”

Read the full report here

We need your help to fight Google’s censorship!
  1. Donate so that we can continue to expose the blacklisting of left-wing media. Give $500, $250, or $100 today.
  2. Share the Google petition on relevant websites, forums, Facebook groups and event pages, and engage with others to explain the importance of this campaign. The ruling class fears the Internet and social media because they can be powerful tools to spread the truth.
The World Socialist Web Site will continue to publish additional exposures of Google censorship and the role of corporations like Facebook and Amazon. If you agree with this fight, take action today.

The World Socialist Web Site

The following community sites -- plus PACIFICA EVENING NEWS, DISSIDENT VOICE and BLACK AGENDA REPORT -- updated:

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