Members of Congress are not happy with the Veterans Affairs Department right now. And the man who runs it says he isn’t either.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testified before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Thursday morning about reports that at least 40 veterans died while waiting for medical care at a Phoenix VA hospital, and that facilities across the country use secret lists to mask long waiting periods for doctors’ appointments.
“Any allegation, any adverse incidents like this, makes me mad as hell,” Shinseki told the committee. “I could use stronger language here, Mr. Chairman, but in deference to the committee, I won’t.”
Operational dysfunction at the Veterans Affairs Department — which switched to a computer filing system just last year — is not new. It has has long been criticized for its massive backlog of records and its long waiting periods for medical appointments. More than 300,000 claims to the department have been pending for 125 days or more.
The Office of the Inspector General has opened an independent investigation at the center in Phoenix. If the allegations are found to be true, Shinseki said, “responsible and timely action will be taken.”
Several Republicans in Congress have called for Shinseki’s resignation in the wake of recent reports of treatment delays. So has the American Legion, one of the country’s most influential veterans’ organizations.
Some lawmakers are so frustrated that Sen. John McCain, who is not a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, asked to address the hearing panelists, including Shinseki, on Thursday morning.
“My fellow veterans cannot wait the many months it might take to complete the report,” the Republican from Arizona said of the independent investigation. “They need answers, accountability, and leadership from this administration and Congress now. Clearly, the VA is suffering from systemic problems in its culture that requires strong-minded leadership and accountability to address.”
Others wondered why the department has not fired any veterans affairs employees over reports of mismanagement, but Shinseki could not provide information about employment termination.
“I do want an answer, because this to me is a fundamental issue,” Democratic Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska said. “As a former mayor, we would fire them. They would be gone.”
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”