On February 27, 2015, Michael “Vass” Vasquez was the keynote speaker at the meeting of the Tri-County Tea Party Patriots in Bainbridge, NY. The meeting started at 7 P.M. and was held in the Bainbridge Town Hall, in Chenango County (part of the 22nd Congressional District).
Speaking to a small crowd that filled the Town Hall, Mr. Vasquez spoke on a range of topics. He spoke about abortion; corruption in New York State; Executive Orders; immigration; Obamacare; the Dept of Homeland Security funding; and how New Yorkers are being represented by elected officials. But the theme connecting all of the topics of the discussion revolved around a central theme. That theme was that the public, through votes and active participation, maintain the true power of the Government.
One of the issues discussed was the on-going battle over the funding of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). At the time of the speech the Senate had passed a “clean” Bill. That meant the effort to defund the Executive Orders on Immigration of President Obama in 2014 & 2012 would have been stripped from the Bill passed by the House of Representatives. But the House rejected the “clean” Bill offered by the Senate as it contained a caveat that it would only allow for funding of three weeks. Both Conservatives and Democrats joined in rejecting this limited bipartisan deal. Eventually, a temporary compromise was struck when a one-week funding was passed allowing DHS to operate as Congress continued the debate.
Another issue that was brought up by Mr. Vasquez was the upcoming 2016 election season. As Mr. Vasquez stated, discussions on potential candidates are being held by Democrats (who failed to offer the public a candidate for the 2014 congressional race), independents, Republicans (Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney opposed incumbent Rep. Richard Hanna in the 2014 race), and first time candidates ((Mr. Vasquez was a candidate from 2013 – 2014 before exiting the congressional race). While no individual has announced a run for 2016 at the State or Federal level, Mr. Vasquez predicted that several candidates would soon be touring districts and mailing flyers in the near-term. Mr. Vasquez made no mention if he would seek to run for elected office in 2016, nor was he asked in the question and answers period after the speech if he was considering this option.
The full exclusive video of the speech (parts 1 & 2) can be found at the M V Consulting, Inc channel on Youtube.
** This is an on-going series that can be seen at the Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com as well **
This is the first part of a multi-article series on the subject of unmanned aerial systems (drones) and their impact on New York State, as well as the nation. In the coming days we will be covering additional data and information provided by the FAA, NYS Dept of Labor, US Dept of Transportation and other direct sources. This initial article will address the creation of drones, some of the larger arguments for and against domestic drone use, and several of the legislations (proposed and enacted thus far) that affect this new industry. This and future articles will not only look at the testing and proposed use of drones from a national viewpoint, but also as it relates to the Griffiss International Airport test site in Oneida County, NY
The birth of the modern unmanned aerial system (UAS), commonly called drones, can be traced back to 1849 in an attack on the city of Venice via unmanned balloons filled with explosives. What might be more direct a connection can be seen in the World War II with the combination of radio controlled aircraft and aerial torpedoes. The TDN-1 might be the closest version of a drone to the eyes of most Americans today. In the 1940 it was called an “assault drone”, and is considered the first American unmanned drone to launch off of an aircraft carrier. It had the ability to drop a 1000 pound bomb, but due to the complexity at the time was never used in combat.
In the Viet Nam War, some 3,400 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) were used for reconnaissance. It wasn’t until Israel used UAV in combination with manned aircraft in 1982 against Syria, and secured a victory, that the precursors to the modern UAV started to be developed in earnest. This lead to the creation of the Predator series of drones that are most recognizable today. The Predator was first used in 1995 in the Balkans, and in 1996 in Iraq. After 2001 they became common use in Afghanistan, through use today in multiple regions around the world.
But as well known as these drones may be, they are NOT the UAS that the FAA has been talking about creating regulations to control. Domestic drone use is confined to UAS that have more in common with radio controlled helicopters and planes, at least in how they look. But this industry in its infancy has been estimated to be able to generate $81 billion, create 100,000 jobs, all in 10 years. Based on the preliminary FAA rules released February 15, 2015, domestic drones will likely be less than 55 pounds in weight; limited to 100 miles a hour in flight speed; limited to the line of sight of the operator; and prohibited from being used to carry any object. The proposed FAA regulations also require a license to be issued by the FAA after a comprehensive test is taken.
The entire issue of domestic drone use came to a head when the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 was passed in February 2012. Within the Act there was the critical inclusion of Subtitle B Subsections 331-336. This section required the FAA and Department of Transportation to create a set of rules, licensing requirements, testing sites, and safety studies primarily within 180 days of the passage of the Act, with a deadline of September 30, 2015, to
“…develop a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.”
Thus the modern era of domestic drones was born. Like all births, this was not to be an easy task. Prior to the FAA Reform Act of 2012 being passed by Congress, privacy advocacy organizations such as the ACLU were outraged by the concept of domestic drone use. Once the Act was passed, the lack of substance on the issue of privacy caused an open letter to be issued to the FAA requesting in part,
“The notice and comment rulemakings should take into consideration the use and retention of data acquired by drone operators; the relation between drone operation and property rights; the ability of an individual to obtain a restraining order against a drone vehicle; and use limitations on drone vehicles and requirements for enforcement of those limitations. In relation to the government use of drones, the rulemakings should also consider the application of the Privacy Act of 1974 to the information gathered by drone operators.”
Proponents of domestic drones, point to the benefits that drones may bring. Uses such as border control and patrol, emergency response – such as with fires or building collapses, commercial use, and enhanced law enforcement capability to protect and defend citizens from various threats and dangers. As for the privacy concerns, Ben Geilom of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said
“With any new technology, there will certainly be the ability to abuse that technology. But there are also safeguards that are already in place that can serve as the framework.”
A more academic argument for drones can be found in the article by M. Ryan Calo, Director for Privacy and Robotics, Center for Internet & Society at the Stanford Law Review
“Existing privacy law will not stand in its way. … Drones may help restore our mental model of a privacy violation. They could be just the visceral jolt society needs to drag privacy law into the twenty-first century.”
While these are the major arguments for and against civilian UAS, they are hardly the only ones. Still the reality is that drones have been in use for a long time, notably by the FBI since 2006. Sadly that use has been wholly unregulated, without any real restriction as FBI Director Robert Mueller demonstrated when he advised Congress in 2013 that the FBI still had yet to develop guidelines for the use of drones that had been operational for 7 years at that point. The requirement for FAA to have clear and well defined rules over domestic UAS can only serve to limit the potentially broad and undisclosed use of drones by the Government as is currently the case.
Of course the FAA, DoT, and various commercial and political concerns were not sitting idly by as three years passed before the first proposal of regulations and requirements were drafted. Especially on the political end. That’s where the Unmanned Systems Caucus (Drone Caucus) come into the picture.
As part of the Act of 2012, testing sites were to be created to evaluate the potential use, regulations, and commercial potential of domestic drones. The Drone Caucus, a coalition of members of Congress seeking to advance the use of domestic drones and secure testing sites in their respective districts and States, worked diligently to advance the cause. One example is Rep. Richard Hanna (one of 3 members of the Drone Caucus from New York State) who was directly involved in increasing the number of initial drone testing sites from 3 to 6. Rep. Hanna was also fervent in securing New York as one of the 6 test sites, as he said in March 2013,
“We certainly can push the point, to the extent that we are on the drone caucus and we have the ability to write letters and talk, and talk up our community.”
It should be noted that the Drone Caucus had 5 mission statements as its goals. None of those statements included efforts to protect 4th Amendment rights, nor create legislation that would define the use and/or limits of domestic UAS. In fact, at some point on or after November of 2014, the website for the Drone Caucus ceased to exist [unmannedsystemscaucus.mckeon.house.gov]. This was quite possibly due to the loss of Rep. Buck McKeon in the 2014 election (he chose not to seek re-election) and a failure of any other member of the Caucus to take on the responsibility of maintaining a public presence and allowing constituents to see the actions and goals of the Caucus.
Even though the Drone Caucus had dropped the ball on protecting the rights of the public and the 4th Amendment, other members of Congress had not. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis), Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-TX), Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and even Sen. Charles Schumer of NY all took up the cause. Sen. Grassley noted on April 2013,
“… justices also have indicated that the length of time an individual is kept under surveillance and the breadth of data collected through such surveillance may inform a reviewing court whether a particular surveillance practice constitutes a Fourth Amendment search. These cases highlight how the Fourth Amendment applies to 21st century technology but, again, given the speed at which these technologies are evolving, Congress has a necessary role in addressing the use of these technologies.”
Aside from the political quagmire regarding UAS, several industry groups, comprised of universities, private business, government institutions and private citizens formed to address the quickly developing arena of domestic drones. One of those organizations was Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR Alliance). NUAIR Alliance submitted a proposal for the Griffiss International Airport in Oneida County, NY in February 2013 stating,
“These test sites present enormous economic development opportunity, and are expected to create thousands of jobs and attract billions in investment for the states that win a designation,” stated Rob Simpson, President of CenterState CEO and Chairman of the NUAIR Alliance.”
A year later, February 2014, NUAIR sought funding from New York State. They stated at the time the amount of $1.2 million a year would be needed to operate for the next 2 years. Hopes were high that the 2014 summer would bring results from the FAA and that the pace of development could be advanced as planned. NUAIR projected that drone testing would bring in $145 million and 500 jobs to New York State – no timeframe on these figures was provided.
In August of 2014, the FAA declared that Griffiss International Airport would be one of the initial 6 drone testing sites in the U.S. The first client approved for test flights was Cornell Cooperative Extension, and was followed by 44 other test flights to date. Sen. Schumer stated on August 7, 2015 that he would push the FAA to “move as quickly as possible” as the potential for “thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic revenue” for the region was at stake (as opposed to his comments 4 days earlier in opposition to drone testing). In that same article Rep. Dan Maffei stated that some 2600 jobs and an “economic impact of $600 million by 2017” could be generated by the drone testing for New York and Massachusetts.
The privacy concerns of the drone testing can be seen in this document. As noted by the ACLU in December 2014, the document is the equivalent of the Texas privacy protections, which is not a compliment. When asked for comment about the privacy concerns related to UAS for this article, Larry Brinker Executive Director of NUAIR Alliance stated,
“There really isn’t a problem. The camera on a UAS is the same a camera on a plane or a person. Laws already exist for that. The same laws apply because the item is just a tool.” – 2/19/15
Mr. Brinker noted that this has not been a real issue in testing, as most tests on the site at the moment are involved with proof of concept or research and development. He also stated that President Obama’s memo on February 15, 2015 addressed many of the concerns of groups like the ACLU and resolves those concerns.
At this point, it is expected that the FAA will miss the September 2015 deadline created by the Act of 2012 for creating a final set of rules and regulations addressing unmanned aerial systems. To date, the Congress has yet to pass any legislation specifically intended to address domestic use of drones and protection of 4th Amendment rights. Politically, the question of domestic drone use has for the time being fallen from the radar of most politicians, pundits and news media.
In part 2 we will be looking at the financial costs, revenues, and job impact of UAS testing to date.
In 2008 Senator Obama promised he would address the many problems plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It was a time of hope and change, or at least that’s what millions of Americans were led to believe. Then on January 20, 2009 retired U.S. Army Gen. Eric Shinseki was appointed to be the Secretary of the VA. Promises of increased staffing were stated and the hope felt real.
Jumping ahead in time a bit, to 2011, wait times for receiving treatment were reduced to just 14 days. By 2012 the VA has set a goal of reducing that wait to just 7 days. While there were questions in the accuracy of these findings, by the GAO and VA Inspector General, those questions were ignored. To all appearances the problem for Americas veterans had been solved. Go team Obama.
Fast forward to 2014. In April of that year it is revealed that at least 40 veterans died waiting for treatment in Phoenix, AZ. The floodgates opened wide and in little time it was revealed that over 120,000 veterans had been waiting or never received treatment nationwide. In addition the VA was cooking the books to hide this fact. Further investigation revealed that at least some additional 35 veterans had died waiting for treatment, quite possibly more.
The Obama Administration moved quickly. Top figures at the VA either resigned or were asked to leave, such as Gen. Shinseki. President Obama nominated former Procter and Gamble CEO and US Army veteran Robert A. McDonald to take the helm of the VA. Congress swiftly passed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, a rare act of bipartisanship, to allow veterans who had lived farther than 40 miles from a VA facility, or had extended wait times, to get care from private doctors. $500 million would be spent on hiring doctors and nurses to increase availability. 26 new VA locations would be built to also help ease access to treatment. Finally something was tangibly being done for our vets.
Or so we thought. By November 2014 it was found that while wait times were down, still 46% (240,000 veterans) were waiting more than 125 for treatment. In addition, errors were still rampant. Zachary Hearn of the American Legion spoke before Congress and stated that 55% of cases he reviewed contained errors. In Nashville, TN, an independent review showed that while the VA claimed 95% accuracy, a preliminary check showed errors in 7 cases out of 22 checked. The problem, while being worked on, was still a mass of hidden errors and delays.
Then on February 11, 2015, we saw the hands that were holding the VA in a discussion between Secretary McDonald and Rep. Mike Coffman of CO
The result was a display of arrogance. The response of Secretary McDonald was a bitter deflection of a serious concern. This was not an indication that our veterans, many of whom have sacrificed far too much, would be receiving more than the usual bureaucratic that was responsible for the scandal in the first place. The response from Rep. Coffman the next day was direct and clear,
“I have never run a federal agency that tolerates corruption the way the VA has. I’ve never built a hospital that’s years behind schedule and hundreds of millions over budget. And I’ve never been a shill for inept bureaucrats who allowed American heroes to die on a medical waiting list.”
Sadly this would not be the end of the problem with Secretary McDonald. Just 3 days later, on Meet the Press, the Veteran Affairs Secretary lied. Not once, not twice, but as Politifact determined on February 20, 2015, the entire substance of the discussion was a fabrication without substance or merit.
- McDonald claimed that 900 people had been fired – half of them were workers still on hiring probations, and all apparently with no connection to the VA scandal.
- McDonald stated that 60 people connected to extended wait times and deception that cost the lives of at least 35 veterans had been fired – but in fact a mere 14 employees and 5 directors were fired or otherwise left the VA in connection to this horrible scandal. Another 9 have firing pending. That’s it. A total of, if we are generous, 28 individuals.
This is the person nominated by the Obama Administration, and approved by the Democrat-led Senate (with a vote of 97-0 to be fair), to rebuild the public faith in the Department of Veteran Affairs. These are the results that can be expected going forward. If anyone believes that this is not the foreshadowing of a scandal equal or, dare it be said, worse than the wait time scandal they likely haven’t paid attention to politics or the Government in the last several decades. The only benefit that has been provided is that these displays of arrogance and incompetence have occurred early in his tenure.
Based on the totality of what has been ignored, what has happened, and what has been revealed, it is my opinion that a replacement for Secretary Robert McDonald be sought before serious damage can continue to affect the lives of our veterans. It is the opinion of this commentary, and Michael “Vass” Vasquez as the writer of it alone, that those who share my concern seek out their representatives in Congress and demand a change be made.
Michael “Vass” Vasquez
President – M V Consulting, Inc.
It would seem that within the Obama Administration there are two distinct and apparently opposing views about the economy and middle class. In one view the economy, and therefore the middle class as well, is seeing an improvement. This can be demonstrated by facts, that have been backed up by fact check. Yet at the same time, the view of the middle class, and by extension the economy as a whole, is in a dire situation. This too can be proven by facts. So which tale is correct?
Starting with President Obama, who spoke with supporters on February 20, 2015, there is the tale of success. The President was so confident in his ability to take credit for the positive economic outlook that he directly requested a fact check of his statements – which he received from Politifact. As confirmed by Politifact, the President cited several economic indicators that not only affirmed the economic policies of the Obama Administration since 2009, but provided him the opportunity to take a shot at Republicans and naysayers from over the years.
President Obama noted that the Dow Jones Index has doubled, jobs are being created faster than any time since the last Democrat president, health care inflation is at the lowest growth since the 60′s, and deficits have been cut by two-thirds. These specific and narrow benchmarks were the key examples that the President used to then snipe at Republicans,
“Now that their grand predictions of doom and gloom and death panels and Armageddon haven’t come true. The sky hasn’t fallen, chicken little is quiet.” – President Obama, 2/20/15
On the other end of the spectrum is none other than Vice President Biden. On February 19,2015, just a day earlier, VP Biden was speaking about the economy. His focus was squarely on the middle class. His words told a very different story though
“What are the major problems we face in America? Number one the middle class is being killed… They are in worse shape than they’ve been any time since the 1920′s.” – VP Biden, 2/19/15
These are vastly different outlooks speaking about the very same thing. Either the nation is doing well and recovering from a massive recession, or we are still struggling to get beyond that recession. Logic dictates that only one of these views is correct. But logic and politics are not the same thing.
The answer lies in the hyper specific nature of what President Obama took credit for, and the more broad answer from VP Biden. The saying goes that it’s the devil in the details. President Obama has excellent oration skills that plays those details like a fiddle. Let’s take a closer look at both tales from the Executive Office.
President Obama was absolutely accurate. Consider this the equivalent of dropping a stick in a stream. It really doesn’t affect anything and does not change what is happening with that stream. But what happens when you scale up the situation. Say like putting the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River.
While the stock market has improved, consider where it was. In 2009 the stock market had just suffered through the loss of two major financial institutions, the housing market had burst, the auto industry was falling apart, and speculation of a monetary collapse was rampant. Markets always falter on even the hint of bad news, and in 2009 there was ample proof of bad news. So the fact the markets improved is really unimportant. As long as America existed the stock market would have rebounded, no matter what President was at the helm. An example of this was seen in the days after the 9/11 attack. For a week there was massive selling, and then a rebound as things settled. The stock market since 2009 is a long slow example of the same effect in action.
President Obama also pointed to job creation. Again, true that the pace has improved. But this is once again similar to the impact of where the nation was in 2009. It is equally true that the recovery from the recession was among the slowest ever for the nation. It can and has been argued that the economic policies of the Obama Administration actually slowed the job recovery. Either way, some 8.8 million jobs were lost in the recession (starting in 2008) and as of December 2014 roughly 10.9 million jobs have been created. Thus some 2.1 million jobs have truly been created just in the Obama Administration’s existence. Which has not kept pace with population growth (needing approximately 230,000 per month or 16.5 million jobs since 2009).
Now while that job growth may sound impressive, it really isn’t. The Participation Rate (number of people working that are able to work) has decreased continuously since President Obama has been in office. To date it has yet to stop decreasing, currently at 62.5% - a low not seen since 1977. Worse, the number of people receiving food stamps is between 1.5-to-1 and 3.1-to-1 (depending on how you do the math as of May 2014) to the number of people getting a job. Roughly 3 million Americans have temp jobs, which helps to exaggerate the unemployment rate without seriously addressing the needs of those Americans. Finally the wages of the jobs gained during the Obama Administration tenure have been lower paying jobs (as of April 2014) than existed before the recession.
There is more on this subject, but let’s move on to health care. The 1% increase due to health care inflation is in fact the lowest in 50 years. But premiums have increased some $4000 since President Obama has been in office. Then again Obamacare did not actually take effect (though it was being paid for since passage) until 2014. Even so, in 2015 the cost of healthcare is once again increasing, by 7 – 18% depending on age/state/healthcare plan. The mandatory penalty for not having healthcare has also increased. At the same time the problems due to Obamacare have yet to end as at least 800,000 Americans are now learning.
Lastly there is the ever so tricky play on deficit and debt. President Obama hit the nail on the head when he stated that the deficit has decreased dramatically. But the term is more than a bit deceptive as it only relates to the annual increase added to the national debt. With excellent oration, and counting on the fact that many Americans confuse the deficit with the debt, President Obama only told half the story with this statement. The part that President casually ignores is the actual debt – the total amount owed by the nation. Currently that amount is $18.1 trillion. It has increased at least $8 trillion under President Obama in the most generous evaluation of how much of the debt President Obama inherited. That is up 80% from where President Bush left off. In just 6 years (and counting) President Obama has nearly doubled the debt and increased the debt per citizen (from 2008) by 75% (currently $56,601 per citizen).
Of course there are other criteria the economy and middle class can be judged. Such as the number of self-employed small business owners, a figure that has decreased by 421,000 people (as of 2013, the last date of figures available). Or the reaction of Americans to the loss of 529 savings plans (discussed in the article When Robin Hood is actually just a hood). But the point is clear – Americans, especially the middle class, are not doing better in an appreciable way. A sentiment that apparently remains as true today as when Democrat Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland spoke about it in 2012,
Can you honestly say that people are better off today than they were four years ago?” host Bob Schieffer asked the governor.
“No, but that’s not the question of this election,” O’Malley replied.
So while President Obama is accurate in a pinpoint view of the economy, Vice President Biden is far more accurate in the broad view of how the middle class are being affected by the income inequality resolution, or wealth redistribution policies, of the Obama tenure. But as Gov. O’Malley stated, that’s not the question, or at least it’s not the question President Obama and Democrats want the public to focus on. It may be why Republicans are touting themselves as the party of the middle class as President Obama stated, but then if they don’t try to be who will be? In taking a broad view, it isn’t the Obama Administration.
The New York Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, announced on February 19, 2015, that 20 school districts across the State had violated new regulations impacting unaccompanied minors and undocumented youth (children of illegal aliens). The school districts affected cover 14 counties in New York, including Homer and Vestal as well as the Oneida School District – all of which are in the New York 22nd Congressional District. The initial investigation that led to the discovery of the violations was started in October 2014 and was centered on counties surrounding New York City.
The entire issue of the children of illegal aliens and unaccompanied minors was brought to the foreground in education when more than 66,000 minors entered the US without authorization, in part as a result of the 2012 Executive Order – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This lead to an influx, as of September 2014, of at least 4,200 unaccompanied minors in New York State alone. As a result, Hempstead school district was investigated for restricting enrollment of 34 potentially undocumented (illegal alien) children, and subsequently those children were enrolled once the violation of Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe was confirmed. During the investigation of the Hempstead school district, advocates for illegal aliens identified other school districts that may have had similar violations in other parts of the State, leading to the announcement by AG Schneiderman.
The 1982 Supreme Court case, Plyler_v._Doe, determined that the 14th Amendment provided for the coverage of children of illegal aliens – especially as according to the Court majority opinion,
“no plausible distinction with respect to Fourteenth Amendment ‘jurisdiction’ can be drawn between resident aliens whose entry into the United States was lawful, and resident aliens whose entry was unlawful.”
Effectively this means that, as a comparison, if a known bank robber were to be identified by accident and/or incidental information (which otherwise would be admissible in court), that bank robber must be excluded from legal prosecution. While there is little argument against providing children with an education, just as they are universally provided health care, the majority decision does allow for judge advocacy instead of decisive legislation form Congress. As the Court dissenting view stated,
“[t]he Constitution does not provide a cure for every social ill, nor does it vest judges with a mandate to try to remedy every social problem.”
The entire issue was further complicated by the issuance of the November 2014 Executive Order Executive Actions on Immigration – which has as of February 16, 2015 been stopped due to a court injunction. The injunction lead to AG Schneiderman’s emphasizing the Plyler v. Doe case as justification of the changes to be enacted in the 20 school districts, though the regulations in place were without question for decades until the promise of unilateral action by President Obama. This appears to have been hinted at by Vestal Superintendent Mark LaRoach who was quoted as stating in regard to this matter,
“Honestly, we hadn’t even had the time. I think it was less than a 30-day period to go out there and review that application. We would have, but holy cow! We hadn’t even received guidance from the state as to what it would take to come into compliance.”
Ultimately, the result will be that the 20 school districts will no longer be able to ask (among other items) about the following items:
- Disclosure of visa status
Visa expiration date
Status as a U.S. citizen/non-citizen
The costs for new training, enrollment forms, and compliance with the Attorney General apparently will fall on the school districts involved, and the local budgets they operate under. No additional funding from the State is known to have been applied or available to offset the additional costs. The total impact to taxpayers is unknown at this time, as it has been confirmed that at the federal level the Obama Administration never sought the tax implications of the November 2015 Executive Order, and no known tax implication was noted by New York State.
The final outcome of the changes to the education system in New York and across the country is highly dependent on the outcome of the immigration Executive Orders of President Obama, decisions by the court system, and any legislation to be offered by Congress.
President Obama has finally figured out the critical element in defeating fanatical Islamic terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaida. The key is a 2 part strategy – don’t mention Islam and create jobs. These are the core issues that the White House is currently focused on, based on the speech made Wednesday and to be announced today at the Countering Violent Extremism summit.
These views are not new. President Obama made a similar call to action at the United Nations General Assembly in 2014. But that was before 21 Christians were beheaded leading to an denouncement by the Pope. That was before a Jordanian air force pilot, and reportedly 45 Iraqis, were burned alive. In the face of these atrocities, it is difficult to accept the simplistic approach that President Obama is presenting.
As stated by Marie Harf, a deputy spokesperson for the US Department of State, on February 17, 2015, on Hardball with Chris Matthews
“But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium and longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups.Whether is lack of opportunity of jobs…”
Secretary of State John Kerry has been reported as backing up that same claim, by the Associated Press on February 19, 2015, that what is needed is an approach that encompasses everything from killing terrorists (his words were “extermists”) on the battlefield to improving opportunities for disaffected youth. A day earlier President Obama emphasized the need to “eradicate this scourge of violent extremism” and that “We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”
But the stated views from the Obama Administration obfuscate a critical fact that is equally or more to the core of these terrorist groups – fanatical religious belief. No matter how the terrorist groups of the Middle East and Northern Africa (Boko Haram, et al) are looked at, integral to that view is their belief that they are in a holy war. No matter what job is offered, no matter the living conditions, even the boundary of nation of origin is immaterial when a fanatical view of religion is the universally consistent theme of these terrorist groups.
In attempting to ignore the direct and essential religious component of these terrorist groups the Obama Administration is eliminating a tool in understanding how to combat this enemy. The simplistic notion that money is the core problem flies in the face of the fact that ISIS, as an example, is self-supporting financially. It also ignores that an estimated 20,000 foreign nations (including people from Europe and the US) have joined ISIS in its cause, with many of those nations having job opportunities available. In fact, based on the fanatical beliefs of these groups, money is a key problem as that is tied to the excesses they believe are corrupting the world and thus must be removed from the face of the Earth. The wealth and excess of America is the reason that these types of terrorist have called for America to be eliminated for decades.
But let us assume that the President is somehow correct. That the mere ability to access a job will remove fanatical terrorists. How are these jobs to be created? With 158 million Americans receiving Government aid,18.7 million unemployed or underemployed (U-6 data from BLS) and a participation rate of 62.5% ( a level not seen since the winter of 1977) the US can’t create jobs and has failed to do so for more than 6 years. How are poor nations with no infrastructure going to suddenly create jobs en masse to combat fanatical religious terrorist groups when the US is having difficulty? Who is going to pay for the creation of these jobs? Ultimately, even if this were to happen, as Chris Matthews responded to the comment from Marie Harf quoted above,
“We won’t be able to stop that in out lifetime, or 50 lifetimes. There is always going to be poor people, there is always going to be poor muslims, and as long as there are poor muslims the trumpets blowing they’ll join.”
While it may feel good to say that the answer to ISIS and similar fanatical terrorist groups is just ignoring them, or trying to keep them preoccupied, it is hardly an effective plan. Especially when the reality is considered that there will always be someone who is poor, or feels downtrodden, or isolated from the mainstream. Even in a communist utopia, human nature will still leave some on the wayside. Which says nothing of the fact that what some believe as the will of the God they worship cannot be bought or distracted.
The long-term answer to ISIS and other terrorist groups unified by a fanatical religious belief is daunting. There is no one simple answer. That said, addressing poverty should be a part of the solution. At the same time, a committed and resolute response to the atrocity they have committed is equally necessary. Perhaps if President Obama and his Administration could spend as much energy and focus on restricting the territorial growth of ISIS, and on encouraging real action against Boko Haram as opposed to hashtags slogans, then there could be time and opportunity to address the other factors they are promoting.
In the end, the secret weakness that is being revealed is not that of ISIS or other fanatical terrorist groups. The real weakness is in a President who is either unwilling or incapable of addressing the issue at hand. The not so secret fatal flaw, is that the most powerful leader of the world lacks both the conviction to name the enemy he faces, and the failure of leadership to unify allies and nations facing the same threat to effectively combat this foe. While there can be no guarantee, if these fatal flaws were to be addressed, it seems likely that the growth of ISIS and fanatical religious terrorists across the world would not be the same as today.
On January 28, 2015, M V Consulting, Inc president Michael “Vass” Vasquez appeared on the morning talk show Talk of the Town with Mark Piersma and Frank Elias, on WUTQ FM. The conversation covered recent votes in Congress by NY 22nd congressional district Rep. Richard Hanna. The key votes in question were on immigration – specifically the Executive Orders by President Obama in 2014 and 2012 – as well as abortion.
The main concern raised by Mr. Vasquez, a former candidate for the NY-22 seat in 2014, was the fact that Rep. Hanna vote both for action against President Obama’s overreach of power with regard to immigration law, and at the same time, on the same Bill (HR 240), under Amendment 7 voted against taking action against the President for doing the very same thing. The actions by Rep. Hanna equate, as Mr. Vasquez stated, to being on both sides of the fence on the issue. The lack of clarity being both an insult to and a violation of the will of voters.
In the same discussion, the sensitive issue of abortion was also covered. Rep. Hanna has consistently stated for the record that he is opposed to abortion. But he has voted in favor of abortion, and late-term abortion for up to 5 month in pregnancy, in 2012, 2013, and again in 2015. The public statements are in direct opposition to the votes being made in the name of the people of the 22nd District – which Rep. Hanna has publicly stated is opposed to spending federal funds to support abortions. Once again this is a violation of the will of the voters that elected Rep. Hanna to represent them in Congress.
Later in the discussion, after some technical difficulties with the line, Mr. Vasquez covered the then current news of former-Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver being arrested on charges of corruption. Mr. Silver has just been formally indicted on these charges. Lastly, the discussion with mark Piersma and Frank Elias address the status of likely deserter and traitor Bowe Bergdahl and the Army report that has been delayed by the Obama Administration since October 2014.
The video contains the entire on-air discussion without edit.
** Original article written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **
The best laid plans of mice and men, as the saying goes. In this case it applies to the Robin Hood proposal made by President Obama during the State of the Union. In specific, the portion that President Obama omitted from the public address to the nation. The part on where he planned to get the money for the “free” college.
As is the case with any entitlement or program from the Government, the “free” 2 years of community college that President Obama teased the nation with is to be paid for by taxes. In particular the plan was to target the 529 college savings plans (as we disclosed in the article When Robin Hood is actually just a hood), which were created to allow tax free savings to pay for a child’s college expenses. The Obama Administration saw that as easy money to redistribute.
The problem is that while the White House took great pains to paint the picture that the only people to be affected by the new tax would be families with incomes of $200,000 or more, it wasn’t accurate. While the majority of those using the 529 plans are wealthier Americans, some 30% of families with 529 savings plans have incomes on $100,000 or less. According to the College Savings Foundation some 70% of the 529 accounts are in households of $150,000 or less. Therefore the Obama Administration wasn’t isolating economic success, but instead attacking anyone who had such a plan since it is not used widely enough for the liking of the Administration.
It should be noted that Senator Obama, in 2006 a year before he decided to run for the office he currently holds, voted in favor of the Pension Protection Act of 2006. This was the Bill that ensured the tax-free status of the 529 savings plans. The Bill passed the Senate with a vote of 93-5 (51 Republicans, 41 Democrats, 1 Independent all in favor).
Given the lame duck status of the President, his waning political clout, and a Republican Congress that despises the Democrat mantra of tax-and-spend, many saw this Robin Hood tactic as little more than a grab for improved approval ratings and a platform for the 2016 Presidential candidates. Complicating the matter further was the fact that even Democrats, like Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Chris Van Hollen and the powerful Senator Charles Schumer, had petitioned the President to back down from the new tax plan. This led to the challenge from the Speaker,
“And so, for the sake of middle-class families, the president ought to withdraw this tax increase from his budget when he submits it soon.” – House Speaker John Boehner, 1/27/15
To head off an embarrassing bipartisan defeat the White House has chosen to remove the new tax from the budget to be released on February 2, 2015. Speaker John Boehner has already lauded plans to step into the vacuum created by the White House as Rep. Lynn Jenkins put forward a bi-partisan proposal to expand the 529 credit as opposed to taxing it. This alternative is expected to be on the floor of Congress at some point in February. The White House is making the best of the situation stating,
“Given it has become such a distraction, we’re not going to ask Congress to pass the 529 provision so that they can instead focus on delivering a larger package of education tax relief that has bipartisan support…”
Currently, the plan to provide 2 years of “free” community college is still going forward. As stated by the White House, the proposed increase in capital gains taxes and estate taxes (also known as the death tax) will provide more than enough to cover the Robin Hood plan. Which leaves two questions to be asked:
- If the estate and capital gains tax increases will more than pay for 2 years of college, why did President Obama intend to still tax the 529 savings plans?
- Since the capital gains tax increase also directly affects millions of Americans, many in the middle class as well, does anyone think President Obama will have any better chance getting that passed through a Republican Congress?
**As originally created by Michael “Vass” Vasquez at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **
Several major media sources are reporting, as of January 15, 2015, that the completed October review into the possible desertion of Bowe Bergdahl will be released in the coming week. The determination of the investigation has been long delayed. Described by Retired Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, of the London Center for Policy Research, as due in part to the efforts of Ben Rhodes, Assistant Director of National Security Intelligence, on behalf of the Obama Administration.
The investigation has reportedly determined that Bergdahl deserted, leading to his capture by the Taliban in Afghanistan for 5 years. Private Bergdahl released in a prisoner swap for 5 high level Al Qaeda Guantanamo detainees in June 2015, and received promotions and back pay for the time in captivity. The prisoner swap was an act the White House has admitted was done without the consent or notification of Congress as required by law.
For most who have followed the Bergdahl case, the determination by the Army to charge Bergdahl with desertion is not new. In fact the only point that was in question was whether Bergdahl had voluntarily joined the Taliban forces in a act of treason, or was captured against his will, after his act of desertion. Under United Code of Military Justice Article 85 desertion is described as,
Any member of the armed forces who without authority goes or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to remain away therefrom permanently.
The penalty for desertion, in war, is the death penalty. It is also possible, and under the Obama Administration most likely, that Bergdahl would receive the alternative punishments of “other punishment as a court-martial may direct.” It is reported that a court-martial would direct that Bergdal lose any promotion given since the desertion – reducing his rank to Private from Sergeant. In addition, the back pay provided to Bergdahl at the time of his release would also be forfeit.
This of course flies in the face of the initial Obama Administration declaration, on June 1, 2014, by National Security Adviser Susan Rice,
“He served the United States with honor and distinction. And we’ll have the opportunity eventually to learn what has transpired in the past years.”
The backlash created by the apparent misrepresentation of Bergdahl, the nature of the deal for his release, and the failure of the White House to lawfully notify Congress, resulted in almost immediate silence by the White House on the issue. Almost immediately after Bergdahl was reclaimed, investigation of possible desertion began, with the review by the Army completed in October 2014.
In a virtual vacuum of silence from the major media, the report was held back along with further action by the Army, as the mid-term elections approached and passed. There were few editorials such as in the Washington Post, commenting on an expected delay of a week – until after the mid-term elections of 2014,
Now there’s the possibility that Gen. Dahl concluded that Sgt. Bergdahl should be court-martialed, and this would further shine a bright light on President Obama’s incompetence and the ineptitude of his administration…. Sometimes surprises are worth the wait, but we won’t know about this one until after next week — unless a whistleblower leaks a copy.
Still, from October until January 27, 2015 the attention of the media has been tepid at best. Fox News has been virtually alone in continuing to report the situation, stating that “…the White House wants this to go away,” and that Ben Rhodes Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser is in charge of suppressing the release of the Bergdahl report. Ben Rhodes was also the person identified as putting a political spin on the Benghazi talking points.
Politically, the Bergdahl trade has been an embarrassment for the White House. From the start it was mired in an admitted violation of law, which in retrospect was a highpoint of the situation. With the help of a mostly absent news media, and an Administration pushing for a delayed release to accommodate a lessened political impact, the public has once again been denied the ability to voice its opinion of the Obama Administration’s action in the mid-term elections and beyond.
In the end the Obama Administration cannot escape the embarrassment, and criminality, of what it has done. All they can do is try to bury the issue at a convenient time where the political blowback will be diminished. Given the multitude of scandals and acts of incompetence, this White House has gotten all too familiar with the process it is using. Even so, the attempt to make a hero out of a likely deserter for the purpose of political gain is both an incredulous act of arrogance by the White House and an insult to the military.
In 2014, Rep. Richard Hanna stated that he was against abortion, as he voted as the sole Republican member of the House of Representatives against HR 7 – No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2014. The reason provided by Rep. Hanna at the time was that he felt the Bill went too far in restricting women’s access to abortion. He also admitted that his constituents disagreed with having Federal funds used to provide abortions. In 2015, after strong primary challenges in the mid-term elections, Rep. Hanna is having deja vue.
Once again, on January 22, 2015, Rep. Hanna has taken the road as the sole Republican to opposed the HR 42, Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 7) to prohibit taxpayer funded abortions, the 2015 version of the Bill presented in 2014. Out of 239 Republican and 3 Democrat votes in favor of the Bill, Rep Hanna joined 179 Democrats to against the Bill. His position was once again that the Bill, which would remove any Federal funding of abortion – which his constituents wanted in 2014 – was too restrictive. But that’s not the whole story.
The item that draws attention is in looking at the votes and discussion on the floor leading to the passage of HR 42. Prior to the final vote, as noted in the record, House Democrats tried to have a vote to recommit the Bill. Democrats sought to include language that would support the expanded view of abortion that they believe is a requirement for all women regardless of desire or religious belief and paid for by Federal taxpayer funds. A view the constituents of Rep. Hanna as a whole do not support. This led to a vote, that would do the following:
“Ms. MOORE. Madam Speaker, this is the final amendment to the bill, and it will not kill the bill or send it back to committee. If this amendment is adopted, the bill, as amended, will immediately proceed to final passage.”
The vote, that could not stop the Bill nor send it to committee and thus delay the result, as recorded by the Clerk of the House was #44. That vote was rejected by Republicans, including a vote against by Rep. Richard Hanna. This seems to indicate one of 2 things:
- Rep. Hanna was voting with the will of his constituents against the Democrat proposal. It would appear to mean that Rep. Hanna felt the Bill properly reflected his constituents views and he felt the obligation to stand with his constituents. Yet that commitment to his voters was not so strong as to let him stand by his personal views, as well as theirs, in the final vote.
- Rep. Hanna took the opportunity, knowing that he would be voting against the Bill and needing to maintain his percentage of votes in favor with his Party (a factor that came into question during his 2014 primary run), and voted along Party lines.
Both options reflect poorly on Rep. Hanna, but seem to be accurate descriptions of the situation. Which would lead to the question, what has Rep. Hanna done in the past? How has Rep. Hanna voted on other abortion Bills? This should indicate where he stands overall.
This would bring us to the June 2013 vote on late-term abortion. HR 1797, Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, sought to stop abortion of a child that had reached 5 months (equivalent to 20 weeks) in the womb – except in the case of endangering the life of the mother, incest, and/or rape. As Rep. Hanna would later state, the will of constituents fell against late-term abortions. Rep. Hanna himself was on record as being against abortion. Yet, Rep. Hanna was one of 6 Republicans that chose to join 190 Democrats in supporting late-term abortions beyond 5 months of pregnancy. The reason? Rep. Hanna felt the Bill was too restrictive for women, though he stated his opposition of late-term abortion at the same time.
Thus there appears to be a pattern. Rep. Hanna seemingly will say he believes what his political party believes in. He may indicate that he is on the side of his constituents (the NY 22nd Congressional District is strongly Republican). After all the talk, Rep. Hanna then votes exactly opposite everything he has said prior. Occasionally, Rep. Hanna will amend the pattern – voting for an Amendment and then reversing his vote on the actual Bill. This is consistent with other positions Rep. Hanna has taken, recently as well as in the past.
HR 240, on January 14, 2014, had the same pattern. Rep. Hanna voted with Republicans while at the same time voting against Republicans, on the issue of immigration and the power inherent in the use of Executive Orders. As we noted at the time,
“Effectively, Rep. Hanna has taken both sides of the issue. He has voted to protect the Constitution, while advocating (through his vote against the Blackburn Amendment) the violation of the Constitution. His words, and his actions, are at odds. The logic behind his justification is flawed.”
Perhaps this is not deja vue for Rep. Hanna. This could be an active and directed political plan. If so, the purpose being in maintaining his political position, as in the 2014 mid-term elections Democrats saw fit to let Rep. Hanna run unopposed. Even if this is not the case, Rep. Hanna is clearly experiencing a kind of political schizophrenia, unable to distinguish (or allow others to determine) what he actually believes and where he truly stands. Obviously, since Rep. Hanna is in his 3rd term in Congress, it also is an effected re-election tool.
** Note – As full disclosure, Michael “Vass” Vasquez, president of M V Consulting, Inc. was a candidate for the NY 22 Congressional District in 2014 and ran against Rep. Hanna for the Republican ticket. **