Monday, September 29, 2014

The two kinds of Republicans are very different, but both are dangerous

The Republican party has a dichotomy and it is very apparent that the Establishment Republicans and the Tea Party Wing don't get along that well.

When Micheal Steele was the RNC chair, a copy of an RNC presentation was left behind in a room. This graphic is revealing because it shows the GOP was aware of the dichotomy even before he rise of the Tea Party.
The major donors are the Establishments Republicans. Many Americans think of them as the one per cent, but is probably closer to the top 8-10 per cent of American families.

Many of these people are the sons and daughters of wealthy Americans. Both the Bush and Romney families are examples.

Most of the Establishment Republicans have two major goals.

Business should be able to do whatever the hell it wants to do without government interference or regulation. Many of these elitists believe they are on equal footing with the government. This view has been around since the rise of the trusts.

It was Republican Theodore Roosevelt who made it clear that corporations were subordinate to the government and the public good. Teddy broke up the trusts and opened the door to unionization in the US.

The Establishment Republicans also believe in privatization which serves two objectives. First, it expands the private sector and makes it more profitable. Second, it reduces the size of government making regulation even harder.

It's not a coincidence that the GOP cuts the budget of IRS every chance it gets. During the GW Bush administration the budget for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was cut which curtailed about 50 per cent of safety inspections Some huge mine and refinery disasters followed after years of corporate neglect and no federal safety inspections. 

The other side of the Republican coin can be described as the the true believers. These are the crazies who fear the sky is falling and hold reactionary views. Politicans like Michelle Bachmann, Ted Cruz, Louie Gohmert, Rick Santorum, and Steve King and Blake Fahrenholdt` are good examples. Many are Christo-fascists who are certain the US is a Christan nation.

You can also include Rush Limbaugh's, ditto heads, the Tea Party, libertarians and the militia movement in the true believer wing. At the bottom feeder end, there are the Sovereign Citizen anarchists. The FBI considers the Sovereign Citizens to biggest terroist threat in the US.

Judson Phillips, one of the funders of the Tea Party, wants to return the US to "classic liberalism" ot he late 1700s. Phillips thinks the governors should appoint senators and only people who own propriety should be able to vote.

In colonial times, women and blacks couldn't vote, women could not own property and only about 12-16 per cent of the American population could vote. Property was defined differently in each state. In Massachusetts, a mule would suffice for voting. 

Why are the GOP emotives upset with Establishment Republicans. The Great recession wiped out their 401Ks when they lost their jobs. Many also lost their homes. The Great American Dream was over for them.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Where to start in VA disability compensation

First, are you eligible?

A veteran must have two years of active duty under her belt as of a 1981 service entry.

You must have a disability that the VA determines is service-connected on active duty, or was made worse by active military service. You must also have a discharge that the VA determines was under other than dishonorable conditions. For example, you are unlikely to qualify for disability compensation if you have a bad conduct discharge. 
The disability compensation conditions are less strict than eligibility for some other benefits such as a VA pension or VA home loans. In both cases, you must have served on active duty during a wartime period such as the Korean War, the Vietnam War or the Gulf Wars.

You have three basic options when you start a claim. You can represent yourself “pro se” or give your Power of Attorney (POA) to a Veterans Service Organization or an attorney. 

Let's look at the pros and cons of each. 

Pro Se

1, You have complete control of your claim. If you have to appeal to the Board of Veteran Appeals (BVA) you get special consideration because you do not have professional representation. You can also ask the BVA for a reconsideration of its ruling, something a veteran service organization or attorney cannot do.

You will be able to go to the VA's Veteran Center that has many experienced counselors who can access most VA claims databases.

In addition, you can usually see the same VA counselor as the claim progresses. The Veterans Center is open 5 -days a week and doesn't close during local or national VA conventions or similar events.

You will have to do all of your own research and file the claim using the On-line VONAPP or the VA paper Form 21-526. You will also have to coordinate the completion of Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQ) with your physicians and clinicians to document your claim.

You will have to set up a file system for incoming VA letters and outgoing claims documents. You wail need access the Internet, a PC and a printer, preferably a laser multifunction printer. You will need software that is able to edit postscript document format (PDF) documents such as Adobe Acrobat.


An attorney can probably provide the best help up front on a claim. If an attorney takes your case, it is a good sign that your case has merit. The attorneys have paralegals who will help you with paperwork and answer questions by phone. You can expect a higher level of service with an attorney.

Most attorneys will also be able to refer you to doctors who understand the VA's documentation requirements and know how to properly complete a DBQ. The VA Regional Office is likely to take attorney representation more seriously than a claim that is represented pro se or by a veterans organization.

The attorney will receive 20 per cent of any retroactive pay that you receive. However, this does not apply to monthly contrast, other private practice attorneys take about 1/3 of a settlement plus administrative costs.

Most veteran attorneys do not provide this services to become wealthy Most have been veterans and understand the need for these legal services to vets.

Veteran Service Organizations

Last but not least are the service organizations such as the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Veterans (AMVETS). There are many others. Most of the states also have state level veteran service officers(VSO).

These veteran organizations usually require POA. However, this does not restrict you from talking to the counselors in the Veteran Center, On the other hand, an attorney will probably want all conservations and documentation to go through the attorney's office.

The exception of the state service organization who usually will not ask for POA. Have found most service organizations to be the least effective way to staff a claim. Many of these offices have limited hours and may be open only 4-days a week. During a VA conventions the entire office may close. One office rotated its VSOs every 90-days and a vet could have 20 different VSOs or more during the life cycle of a claim.

Service organizations are unlikely to help you write or review claim documentation. Service orgs will represent you during a local BVA hearing, but many VSOs lack legal training. This is true in FL. However, in NY a VSO must have legal training.

The state VSOs are a different animal. Many will help you without requiring POA.Most are unlikely to represent you during a BVA hearing.

So, if you are representing yourself pro se, you can still get advice from both counselors in the vet center and from state level VSOs. In the case of the writer, this situation worked best, but it is not for everyone.

Is Pro Se is for me?

Fist of all can you or your significant other write well? Can you distinguish facts from opinion? How good is your grammar and reading comprehension? 

The BVA has strict rules on evidence. The BVA will throw out any opinion other than expert that you try to present as fact. 

Try some of these tests before you dive into pro se.  Check out the following grammar and reading comprehension tests and your ability to distinguish fact from opinion.

If you are having difficulty with these tests, suggest you engage and attorney. Regardless of whether you start the claim with an attorney, you will probably eventually need one if you appeal to the BVA, which provides legal administrative hearings.


VA Form 21-526

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What you can do to secure your home network

1. Don't use Microsoft Windows. It has holes engineered into it paid for by NSA. Hackers will find some of these holes. Linux Mint 17 is a better operating system (OS)than Windows. It is free and more secure. You can download it from the Internet or buy a Linux magazine that includes a Mint DVD. You can install it and update it in less than on hour Try that with MS Windows.

2. Purchase a router with DD_WRT or Tomato firmware installed. It provides better security than the home router you can get at a computer store. It is also possible your existing router can be upgraded with either Tomato or DD-WRT firmware.

3. Configure your browser so it doesn't remember any history, There are also some great security browser extensions like Ghostery and No Script. Use the Duck, Duck, Go search engine because this search engine uses secure SSL security. Your Internet searches are not archived either.

4. By all means install anti-virus software on you PC before you connect to the Internet. If you are using Linux, ClamAV can be downloaded using the internal Synaptic Package Manager. Avast AV has to be downloaded from the AVAST website and you need to request a free registration key by email. Then run a virus scan on your home directory and then the complete OS.

5. Install a uninterpretable power supply to protect your PC, cable modem and router form surges, spikes, brownouts and drops. This upgrade can extend the life of your router, cable modem and PC or laptop for years.

6. If you are using wireless, use a 12-14 digit password and change it at least quarterly.
Hardinfo Ip connections display

7. In Linux, use Hardinfo IP connections check your security. You should not have any established connections to the Internet when your browser is closed. In this example the browser is connected to the Internet and I have two established connections. If you have any established connections with public IP addressees when the browser is closed, you probably have a Trojan or some other malware that is lurking in your PC.

8. Linux Mint has the IP tables firewall and you can use the GUFW front end to modify the firewall. You do need a basic understanding o IP addressing and ports to use this firewall. Likewise, the ClamAV anti-virus program has the Clam TK front end graphical user interface.

9.You can use Keypass to store passwords on your desktop or Lastpass extension in your browser. This will allow you to have many unique passwords for email, bank accounts and online retailers.

There are many other things you can do to improve security in your home networks. These are just some basics.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Conservative Historical Myths

There are many conservative myths and they start at the Revolutionary War.

Pseudo-historians like Newt Gingrich will suggest the Revolutionary War was a conservative revolution and Americans should return to those days of yesteryear to recapture our spirit The founders were 10 feet tall and they wrote the Constitution in stone just like the 10 commandments.

First, the US revolution was a liberal revolution as was the French. The purpose of the revolution was to throw of the shackles of monarchy and replace it with a democratic republic. The early US democracy is hardly like the one we have today. Women and blacks could not vote and women could not own property.

Some Tories were tared and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. 

However, there were conservatives who were sympathetic to the crown and most emigrated to Canada. At that time conservatives were called Tories.

The US Constitution contains the manner in which our government was structured and some legal principals, most of which are in the Bill of Rights. A house, a senate and judiciary were created so that laws could be written, interpreted and executed. The strict constructionist or originalist theory of the US Constitution has no basis in fact. We would not need a legislative branch, an executive branch and a judiciary if everything was in stone.

Conservatives say the US is a Christian nation, but the First amendment makes it clear he US was established as a secular nation. Want more proof? Read the Treaty of Tripoli signed by John Adams and passed by unanimous voice vote in the US senate. The founders were aware of the religious wars in Europe and didn't want that mistake repeated in the US.

The next conservative myth is that the Civil War was about state rights. Jefferson Davis never talked about state rights until after the Civil war. The Civil War had a lot to do with slavery, but not as most Americans imagine it. Lincoln never talked about abolishing slavery when he first ran for president.

In the mid-19th century, the power of the Southern states were declining as new territories were incorporated into the US. The big concern of Southern representatives and senators was that slavery was not being expanded into the new states.

The Southern economic system was predicated upon slavery. The vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens said this in his Cornerstone speech in 1861

"Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition."

Southern plantation owners did not want slavery abolished or contained because it was immensely profitable.

The next big myth is that the US never lost a war. Most historians will admit that the US lost the war of 1812, but our history books often gloss over the fact. The last war the US won was World War 2. The Korean War was a stalemate and the US performed a strategic withdrawal in Vietnam. We also occupied Iraq, but eventually withdrew.

Is it possible to have a military victory in a 10 year occupation? One Marine general thinks so.

Conservatives also like to gloss over the Great Depression. The only Democratic president who was elected in the period between 1900 and the start of the Great Depression was Woodrow Wilson. Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover all served prior to the Great Depression and all were Republican.

Segue to 2008 and another Republican, GW Bush heralded another economic meltdown. Bush's Ownership Society and deregulation of the 5 major investment banks led the US into to the Great Recession. The GOP myth is that the great recession was caused by Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. Both organization worsened the economic situation in the great Recession, but neither organization caused it.

Another great conservative myth is supply side economics which has been around since the 1890s when it was called “horse and sparrow.”

The idea is that you give the affluent more society so the wealthy  can redistribute it to the middle class. Supply side economics also implies taxes should be cut for the affluent. 

Does anyone really know what the affluent do with their tax cuts? Suspect a lot of the cash ends up in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland.

In the early 80s, the influential and multi-partisan American Economics Association had 18,000 members. Only 12 called themselves supply-side economists in American universities, There is no major department that could be called "supply-side," and there is no supply-side economist at any major department.

This is significant, because academia in the 70s was dominated by conservative economic theory, and conservative economists normally welcome any ideas that make the case against government intervention. The fact that they scrutinized supply-side theory and rejected it wholesales gives eloquent testimony to the theory's bankruptcy.

When candidate George Bush called it “voodoo economics” in the 1980 presidential campaign, he was doing so with the full backing of America's economic community.

Today the conservatives are suggesting that America needs more tax cuts, privatization and deregulation, three things that failed during the GW bush presidency.

Rarely do Republicans offer any reputable proof that their theories about taxes, privatization or deregulation work. The best the GOP can do is provide highly partisan studies from the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute and 

When you are a political party that I more faith-based than fact-based, ideology is more import that hard facts.

A good example occurred in FL. Without any factual basis, the FL legislature bought Gov. Rick Scott's assumption that people applying for welfare had a drug problem. People applying for welfare were forced to take drug tests at their own expense. The courts threw the law out when it was discovered that few welfare applicants had failed the drug test.

A similar law was recently passed in TN. Only ½ per cent of the welfare applicants failed the drug test there. It is hard to teach a conservative dog new tricks.

Why do Americans continue to elect legislators who are irrational because of their half-baked ideology? Most of these people cannot be confused with facts. 

Some even think that biblical values are more important than US constitutional values. Others think the US Constitution is based upon the bible. America needs to get these misfits like these of politics.

That would be people like Reps. Steven King, Blake Fahrenholt, Louie Gohmert and Michelle Bachmann. Bachman is retiring, hopefully for good.


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