ANOTHER YEAR OF SAMEOLD, SAMEOLD--As 2015 comes to a close, veterans are still on the “losing end” when it comes to healthcare, housing and Constitutional rights.

For decades, each new Administration has proclaimed a debt of gratitude to our veterans and promised supportive medical, education and housing assistance upon their return from war yet each administration has further complicated or ignored VA problems and made them even worse for veterans to navigate the continuing corrosion and corruption that never seems to “get fixed.”

When the new Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs Robert A. McDonald was confirmed by the US Senate and sworn into office in July 2014, he touted his experience as a CEO for a major company an asset for the VA. McDonald replaced General Eric Shinseki who resigned amid intense fire over allegations that some VA health care facilities across the nation, particularly Phoenix, AZ, were covering up excessive patient wait times for veterans, veterans' deaths and even secret waiting lists at VA hospitals across the country. 

McDonald laid out a 90-day plan to increase efficiency and improve care at the department.

In a press conference at the VA headquarters in D.C. in September 2014, McDonald promised, “to be transparent about the Department, vowing to do away with the hierarchy and make veterans the top priority.” Yet, a year later no one has been “done away with.” The quest to “weed out corruption” has not resulted in the termination of anyone’s employment but rather two demotions. Sharon Hellman, who is believed to have supervised the manipulation of veteran wait times in Phoenix, AZ a year ago, remains on paid leave with a salary of $170,000 per year, “pending investigation.” At that time, the VA Inspector General’s Report found deep problems and a “corrosive culture” throughout the national VA health system that extended far beyond Phoenix to over 69 facilities nationwide. 

The New York Times (NYT) reported just three months ago that veterans seeking health care from the VA often end up on waiting lists of a month or longer has increased over 50%.

At the largest VA care facility in the country, the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration (WLAVA) wait times still remain excessive. Thousands of veterans still wait six months to a year for appointments. Yet Congress is being told that wait times have drastically improved.

Billions of dollars are pumped into the VA yearly, yet nothing improves, and again, the VA faces a budget shortfall of nearly $3 billion dollars.

NYT reported the DVA “is considering furloughs, hiring freezes and other significant moves to reduce the gap” after McDonald assured Americans in 2014 that “the DVA has added more clinic hours, are recruiting additional staff, deploying mobile medical units, and having high-performing facilities share their best practices to help facilities all over the country rise to a higher level of improvement.” An even better question that deserves an honest answer is, “Where is all the money being spent?” Accountability is buried in bureaucracy.

In March 2009, President Barack Obama stood aside former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, promising to end veteran homelessness in five years and pumped nearly $270 Million into programs aimed at addressing the problem. Millions of dollars were pumped into Housing and Urban Development agencies (HUD) for housing vouchers for veterans yet over six years later, thousands of veterans remain homeless in part, because of 2013 sequestration funding cuts, that in 2016 will purportedly restore only one third of the vouchers in the VASH program. Landlords have stopped taking HUD VASH vouchers because they are not worth enough to cover high rents in many cities- coupled with the presumed safety risks of renting to mentally ill veterans whose illnesses may be exacerbated by drugs and alcohol because they do not seek treatment.

Homeless veterans still remain, largely, at risk. In 2010, the DVA estimated that on any given night there were 76,000 homeless veterans sleeping on the streets. Those statistics were measured using data from the Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) administrative database. The database only reflected the number of veterans who used emergency shelters or transitional housing during the 12-month period. Homeless veterans who did not utilize either were not included in the estimates. In warm climates, homeless simply sleep on the streets and rarely go into shelters. 

In 2015, the DVA says that estimation nears 50,000. Critics believe those estimates are extremely low because data used in compiling statistics was incomplete. 

In Los Angeles, estimates of homeless veterans over the past five years have varied greatly from 5000 to 20,000 and sometimes more. In the past year, homelessness rose 6% but no one knows exactly what number it rose from. 

In February 2015, the DVA detailed its plan to end veterans' homelessness in Los Angeles by 2016, pledging to build permanent and temporary housing on the 387-acre property at the West LA VA. For more than 15 years, “chest-bumping” politicians have spewed these same promises to veterans. It took years to renovate building 209 into 55 apartments with a price tag of over $20 M so it’s a good guess that 2016 will come and go before more housing for veterans is built on the West LAVA campus. 

Since former Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, released a 2009 report labeling veterans as “extremists” the VA has been actively reporting veteran’s names to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database to prohibit veterans from owning, buying or selling firearms. The VA’s “guilty before proven innocent” scam has denied rights, without interference, for hundreds, perhaps thousands of veterans simply because they were injured during war.

In 2013 Senator Richard Burr attempted to pass legislation that would allow only individuals who were adjudicated by a judge if their illness or disability posed a threat either to themselves or others to be placed on the FBI’s NICS database. No one expected Congress to pass a bill would favor a veteran. 

Senator Chuck Grassley also showed great concern over arbitrary actions by the FBI and the VA. In a 2013 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Grassley wrote, "The VA’s regulation appears to omit important findings and never reaches the question of whether a veteran is a danger to himself, herself, or others. 

“Thus, a VA determination that a veteran is “incompetent” to manage finances is insufficient to conclude that the veteran is “mentally defective” under the ATF’s standard that is codified in federal law," Grassley continued. "Furthermore, when a veteran receives a letter stating that the VA believes he is unable to manage his finances, that veteran now has the burden of proving that he is in fact competent to manage his benefit payments and does not need a fiduciary. 

“However, underlying the hearing is a real possibility that the right to firearms will be infringed. Therefore, in light of the liberty and property interests involved, placing the burden of proof on the veteran is highly suspect. Under similar circumstances, the burden is generally on the government.” 

It is, unequivocally, unsound and irrational thinking that sends our young men and women off to war and EXPECTS them to come home “whole.” Most veterans experience minor depression, minor PTSD, and even minor short-term memory loss when they return home but can still function- competently. 

No court would find them incompetent and strip them of their second amendment rights for such minor diagnoses unless they were proven to be a detriment to society.  

In some of these cases, the VA does not even offer reasons or evidence for such a Determination yet their names are arbitrarily added to the NICS database. Would it surprise you that OVER 99% of the names added by all authorized agencies came from the VA? 

VA determinations are not made by mental health professionals or adjudicated in a Court of law, but rather by a benefit administrator- a policy that is quite different than the rest of the population whose cases must be adjudicated in a Court of law. Veterans are not given a hearing before these determinations are made by the VA but can request a “hearing” after the fact or can file an appeal to dispute the VA’s findings. Guilty before proven innocent? 

The 14th Amendment of the US Constitution is very clear. “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” 

America, we need to demand “better treatment” for the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep this country safe. We owe them a debt of gratitude and they deserve nothing less than the benefits they were promised and equal protection under the law as all else are entitled to.

 

(Katharine Russ is an investigative reporter and a regular contributor to CityWatch. She can be reached at Katharine.russ@charter.net.)

-cw

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PERSPECTIVE-I occasionally like to go off-topic and cover subjects or events outside of LA or California politics and government. This week, I am compelled to do so. 

The ISIL-inspired act of terrorism in San Bernardino, a city that can be considered part of the greater metropolitan area of Los Angeles, within commuting distance of downtown, would make any other topic an escape from reality. 

The loss of life and injuries cannot be described in any more words than have already be written and said. I cannot begin to express my sadness and anger over the senseless murder of innocent people in the name of an ideology. 

Instead, I’d rather focus on what events such as this exposes about us. 

Our nation has been steadily transformed into a partisan society, conceptually not too different from the sectarian rivalry evident in the Middle East. Whether political or religious in nature, irreconcilable conflict is poison. 

One only needs to follow sound bytes, Facebook posts and tweets from political leaders, and the people who elect them, concerning the string of mass murders in recent years to understand we are heading for our own version of destructive dysfunction. 

Executions, like the event in San Bernardino, have riled up the pro-gun segment. After all, its supporters claim, it is terrorism or mental illness and not assault weapons responsible for the carnage. Ultra-liberals are in denial over the danger of radical Islam. Even our president cannot form the words to acknowledge its culpability. Neither side recognizes the merits of the other’s arguments. 

The fact of the matter is, we allow the sale of military style weapons to almost anyone in the name of the Second Amendment. We also permit too many to enter this country from regions where twisted fundamentalism thrives. 

We should no more allow the sale of powerful weapons to the public than we should permit entry to this country in numbers too great to properly vet. 

Serious gun control is needed now. Mere possession or sale of assault or any semi-automatic weapons should be declared grounds for possible criminal prosecution. A period of amnesty should be granted for all to turn in these weapons – even reimbursing the owners who can provide proof of purchase; otherwise, allow them to surrender the weapons anonymously. 

Likewise, all applicants for entry into the United States for any form of long-term stay need to be investigated in a manner that digs below the surface. It is apparent that the current background checks are not enough. 

Civil records, if they are available, don’t begin to tell the whole tale. An applicants for admission could be squeaky clean on the surface, with no traceable ties to militants. But it’s what in their hearts and minds that counts just as much. Persons who find liberal society a threat to their values are ticking time bombs who can be swayed by radical elements to create mayhem down the road. Sophisticated questioning by FBI-trained personnel, including the use of polygraph tests, must be employed to uncover possible anti-Western leanings. 

That could add months to the already long process that refugees face, but we owe it to all of us living here. 

The United States should be a country that assists those who need protection from despots and persecution, but people coming here must prove themselves worthy of our trust and be in alignment with the facets of an open, liberal society. 

We are not obligated to allow anyone the privilege of residency; we are obligated to protect those who are here.

 

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone. They should not be construed to represent the opinions of the VVHA or the residents of Valley Village, individually or as a group. He can be reached at: phinnoho@aol.com.) Photo: LA Weekly. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw                                          

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 99

Pub: Dec 8, 2015

 

Tags:  

 

ALPERN AT LARGE--You know, of course, that CityWatch contributors don't get paid, right?  So when we say a few things like "the City of Los Angeles probably has to be sued by its residents for its government to obey the law" or "we need alternatives to the automobile but don't need to persecute those who rely on automobiles" or "affordable housing or transit-oriented development isn't an excuse for overdevelopment" it's not like we've got a conflict of interest.   

So here are a few more thoughts that might go against the grain... 

Maybe, just maybe, creating an environment for worsening car traffic in Los Angeles will pollute the air more, not less--whether via overdevelopment or a lack of parking to access mass transit/alternative transportation, the result is the same. 

Maybe, just maybe, encouraging local overdevelopment and overpopulation (which is what the City of Los Angeles is doing) will NOT result in addressing environmental issues such as climate change as much as will the developing nations of China and India adhering to modern environmental standards. 

Maybe, just maybe, environmental issues (which ARE very important, because we can't really live without a clean environment) aren't the most immediate problem we face, considering that our own adherence to political correctness is preventing us from balancing kindness to foreign/Muslim immigrants with demanding they assimilate to Western ideals...which even many Muslim leaders support. 

Maybe, just maybe, it's not anti-American to suggest that this President isn't up to the job any more than his predecessor, George W. Bush, was up to the job.  Seriously, it's both Constitutional and morally correct to express concern about our leadership ... or lack thereof. 

Maybe, just maybe, we're torn between wanting to embrace Muslims as fellow kind, open-minded human beings versus wondering why so such a prominent minority have frightening beliefs that make us wonder what to believe, and who to trust. 

Maybe, just maybe, we're also torn between being vigorously against persecution of innocent Muslims here at home while wondering why organizations such as CAIR are more interested in damage control (LINK: http://www.cair.com/press-center/press-releases/13289-cair-asks-president-obama-to-condemn-islamophobia-during-address-to-nation-on-terror.html) than in proclaiming what the rest of us are on pins and needles waiting to hear:  that the horrible husband/wife killers in San Bernardino rot in hell, that they are a stain on humanity, and that they represent the worst thing that ever happened to Islam. 

Maybe, just maybe, the kindness that Americans (who, at this time in our nation's history, are mostly white) show the rest of the world--including acknowledgement of past misdeeds, and of our moral imperative to reach out to those of us less fortunate--shouldn't be attacked but praised.  A "politically incorrect Coke ad" pulled because it (gasp!) showed that we should reach out both to our Spanish-speaking and non-Spanish-speaking neighbors to the south (LINK:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziSty_38p6k)?  Really? 

So maybe, just maybe, we can now understand why Americans are (and probably to their own surprise) now flocking to such unlikely individuals as billionaire and reality personality star Donald Trump or socialist Bernard Sanders to refocus on our main issues of the day... 

...which include income inequality, government and big business (or am I just repeating myself?) crushing of the average law-abiding American and a press that is both distracted and living in its own bizarre bubble. 

Maybe, just maybe ...

 

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee.  He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  Alpern@MarVista.org.   He also does regular commentary on the Mark Isler Radio Show on AM 870, and co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 99

Pub: Dec 8, 2015

FEARLESS FORCAST--While crises are nothing to cheer about (except for those bottomfeeders who choose to exploit them for personal vendettas or even economic betterment), it appears that 2016 will finally bring about the culmination of bottled-up tensions that have been worsening for approximately 15 years.  And yes, that matches the timeline that began with the crises of the Bush/Gore election and 9/11, and extends to our present day. 

Whether it has roots in the crises brought to our shores and communities (foreign or domestic terrorism) or the red/blue divide furthered either by the Karl Rove gang or the "let no crisis go to waste" gang, our nation is more divided than ever, with income inequality and political/economic empowerment disenfranchising increasing majorities of American subcultures--and inflaming groups of Americans against Americans. 

I frankly wonder (but am oh-so-grateful) that there hasn't been violence in the streets. Perhaps there IS something good about reality TV and Internet distractions, in that they have numbed and distracted us from the decreasing quality of life that is part of our modern American era. 

But the Trump/Sanders Phenomena is NOT borne out of a mere coincidence--and neither are the Tea Party and Occupy Movements.  Even if they're not talking to each other, the peaceful-but-still-angry Americans behind those phenomena and movements still have the rough elements of "I've had it and I won't take it anymore" in common: 

1) Trump has moved forward with embracing the anger of Americans, while Sanders arguably hurt himself by taking the high road.  The GOP is jettisoning its Bush elite family past--despite the Republican establishment's frenzied and cash-soaked attempts to retain Jeb Bush as the annointed Republican frontrunner, but the Democratic Party establishment's embracement of the Clinton elite family might hurt that party in 2016. 

Trump's poll numbers go up, while Sanders, who has been a gentleman in the debates and in his campaigning, have gone down.  Perhaps Sanders is getting savvy with attacking the DNC who is shoving him aside with respect to voter data access but if he doesn't take off the boxing gloves soon, he might just realize that nice guys sometimes finish last. 

Why the need to embrace the anger of ordinary Americans?  Well, it's what we all learn with respect to Customer Service 101:  when a customer is angry (in this case, the average Joe or Jane American), it's kind, empathetic and smart to acknowledge, verify and support that customer's feelings. 

Both Trump and Sanders are getting virtually all their campaign money from small, average Americans, while the opposite is true for both the Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton campaigns.  Wall Street and the 1% are without a doubt supplying most of the funding of Mr. Bush and Ms. Clinton. 

And as former Democratic candidate Jim Webb starts getting his own ire up, and weighs a run as an Independent, it's probably not hard to conclude that there are more than a few pro-woman Democrats who wished Elizabeth Warren had thrown her hat into the ring.  

And perhaps Bernie Sanders will reconsider how nice he should be to his opponent...presuming, of course, he truly wants to win the Democratic nomination for the 2016 Presidential Election. 

Laugh as we might at the large field of Republican presidential candidates, and laugh as we might at the cumbersome Republican debate arrangements, but there might be more than a little sentiment of wishing we had more choices than another Bush or another Clinton.   

At least voters have been appeased by seeing Bush being thrown out of the frontrunner status into the "waiting to step down status"...but there is no appeasement with respect to seeing Hillary Clinton "get hers" the way Bush "got his". 

2) Many--arguably MOST--Americans truly have a "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" frame of mind.  Wages are stagnant if not falling, law-abiding and honorable Americans too often appear to lose out to the inscrupulous elites, and our nation's fabric is as tattered as ever.   

Whether it's Howard Beale from the movie Network, of Howard Jarvis, author of California's famous Proposition 13 taxpayer revolt, we're having a "Howard" moment. 

And if there are those of you who wish we'd heard more of Sanders, and less of Trump, it might give you pause and relief to know that when Bernie Sanders weighed in on wages being too low, Donald Trump did something we rarely see:  he backtracked and clarified that wages and middle-class job opportunities are too low. 

In other words, we do need to hear more from Bernie Sanders (whether you agree with his socialist conclusions, he does have a few solid on-point proclamations we need to hear), and it's interesting to know that he has The Donald's ear.  It's also interesting to know that Trump and Sanders share a few key perspectives, and that they both feel that average hard-working Americans are being rewarded increasingly less for their toils. 

3) Then there's another target for Americans anger:  The Press, who have obfuscated and distracted and confused and spun the news to the point that the average American has a hard time knowing who to trust.  And don't worry about "Fox News" (or "Faux News", as some call it), because Donald Trump and Fox News hate each other as well. 

The revolving door of the largest media institutions (often referred to as the "Mainstream Media") and the White House is slowly dawning on the American public, or at least their mutual and horrible love affair, and it's why Trump's poll numbers go up after each media attack (deserved or not), because while Americans might be leery of Donald Trump, they absolutely HATE the Press. 

And when CNN's Don Lemon got frustrated and angry that his guest didn't decry Donald Trump's recent remarks about Hillary Clinton, because the guest was more focused and disgusted about the Clinton family's history of abusing and belittling women who were mistreated and exploited, it's almost certain that when Don Lemon cut his segment short that it was NOT the guest who "lost" the battle...it was Don Lemon. 

To be sure, there are those who wonder about all this anger, but they're probably the ones who ignore the harsh, hideous reality that the Great Recession of 2007-09 did NOT end, but rather morphed into the Second Great Depression that we are still miserably slogging through.  Maybe the ones who think things are "juuuust fine" and "juuuuust great" are economically or politically favored right now, but they're in the minority. 

Because it's only the Press, and those who still trust it, who think things are actually getting much better. 

4) Even if they don't realize it, the ones still throwing themselves as human shields in front of the current President are appearing as irrelevant as those who--to the end--threw themselves as human shields in front the last President. 

Because when the general election cycle starts after primary season ends, there will be no shortage of ordinary, otherwise tolerant Americans, including Democrats--many of them pro-union--who realize that private sector jobs and opportunities are being smashed while the public sector appears too coddled...and at the expense of the overwhelming majority of taxpayers. 

Because when the general election cycle starts after primary season ends, there will be no shortage of ordinary, otherwise tolerant Americans who won't tolerate the "blame Bush"  message anymore, and will want answers to the complicated relationship Americans have with domestic and foreign Muslims In 2016, there will be many, perhaps most, Americans who hate BOTH Bush And Obama. 

Because when the general election cycle starts after primary season ends, there will be no shortage of ordinary, otherwise tolerant Americans who will raise the cry of exactly when the rights of foreign refugees end, and when the rights of American citizens who will pay for them begin Even the Obama. Administration is starting to expel migrants (who we used to call "illegal" because they were not entering this country legally, and were breaking the law). 

Because when the general election cycle starts after primary season ends, there will be no shortage of ordinary, otherwise tolerant Americans who will wonder why--particularly for those who remember former President Richard Nixon's lawbreaking and wiretapping tendencies with outrage and disgust--our President and his NSA are so prone to spying on our friends, and now even on Congress. 

To conclude: 

1) If there's a silver lining in the cloud hanging over the heads of those who fear a President Trump being elected in 2016, perhaps it's that Donald Trump's political past is NOT with the GOP and NOT with the Democratic Party. It's with the Reform Party of Ross Perot, and the idea of voting "none of the above" appears to actually have a chance of occurring this election cycle (for good or for ill). 

2) But doubt not that anger exists aplenty in our nation, and that it will boil over politically next year.  Whether that anger leads to a new, decades-overdue call for reform that actually happens...is a question that will be answered only in 2017. 

But in 2016, it's all about the anger.

 

 (Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee.  He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  Alpern@MarVista.org.   He also does regular commentary on the Mark Isler Radio Show on AM 870, and co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

DOWNTOWN-Thursday night’s Downtown LA Neighborhood Council (DLANC) Executive Committee meeting was abruptly cancelled. While no official reason was given by DLANC, those close to the situation have indicated that it was due to recent illegitimate Board of Directors’ votes. 

The legitimacy of multiple board votes is in question because of one Board member who is also on the DLANC Planning and Land Use committee -- Robert Newman. 

Newman recently shared on his personal Facebook page that he no longer works for Skid Row Housing Trust, stating that he “left [the] job at Skid Row Housing Trust.” He qualified for one of DLANC’s Social Service Provider seats as an employee of SRHT. Newman has served on this Board since 2012 and is fully aware of the rules that qualify a person for that particular Board seat. It is unclear as to what his motives were for not stepping down. 

Now that multiple grievances have been filed, it must be determined how many DLANC votes were tainted. It appears as though at least two consecutive months of votes, including Letters of Support for various development projects Downtown, will be affected. If a LOS is still desired from the DLANC, these developers (as well as all other projects) will need to go back before the planning committee and then to the full Board. This means it will take a minimum of another two months before the first batch of projects will be able to resume their development plans. 

Letters of Support from a neighborhood council are imperative to fulfill the City’s requirement regarding a project’s potential impact on the community. 

With the massive influx of Downtown development in recent years, this setback exposes just the latest of numerous blunders by the DLANC. 

Countless grievances have been filed over the years and over 50 grievances against DLANC have been accepted by DONE (Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.)  Illegal Board meetings have been held in venues which failed to secure lease agreements with the City; there have been matters in which Board members should have but refused to recuse themselves. The DLANC has had many close calls with decertification, a consequence that would instantly bring Downtown development to a screeching halt. 

Adding to all of this is the Skid Row community’s lack of inclusion, something that has prompted the collective effort to create the Skid Row Neighborhood Council. 

A separate grievance, filed at the same time as the others, has resulted in the Skid Row resident director Board seat being empty -- due to the fact that Ron J. Smith has left his job at SRO Housing Corporation. As a manager, he had been provided on-site housing by the company. But now that Smith works for a new company, that housing is no longer available for him, thus making him unqualified for a resident Board seat. 

The timing for this sudden departure is even more interesting because there is a proposed development in Skid Row to convert buildings that were previously used by Salvation Army (photo) to provide housing and services to homeless and formerly homeless. The developer now wants to change it into an adaptive reuse project which plans to provide market-rate, micro-unit housing to students and workforce members -- in the heart of Skid Row! 

Skid Row residents are livid because they currently don’t have any Board representation to represent their voice. 

The question now becomes, will DLANC be forced to hold special elections to fill these new Board seats before it can re-vote on the Letters of Support for all the development projects -- including the ill-timed adaptive housing project in Skid Row? 

If so, this could significantly slow development projects with fast-approaching hearing dates because, by not having a LOS from the local NC, their applications will not be complete and subject to delays which also incur cost increases. 

DONE is already severely understaffed. The last thing they need is all of these problematic issues that warrant priority status in the eyes of the Downtown business sector. And who’s supposed to log-in all the extra hours necessary to undo the current mess at the DLANC? 

One thing’s for sure, this was not the fault of Skid Row; it was not the fault of the residents of Downtown; and it isn’t City’s fault. 

That said, for the sake of NC political correctness, and now that the truth is out, maybe the finger pointing will stop. We need corrective measures!  

 

(General Jeff is a homelessness activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 99

Pub: Dec 8, 2015

WAR LORDS--If the highest ranking U.S. and NATO military commander in Afghanistan gets his way, America's longest official war could become even more protracted.

Army General John Campbell said in a USA Today article published on Tuesday that he wants to keep the 9,800 American troops currently in Afghanistan there for as long as possible—and is considering asking for even more boots on the ground.  

"My intent would be to keep as much as I could for as long as I could," Campbell told the paper from Kabul.

"Every time I've gone to the president and said, 'I need X,' I've been very, very fortunate that he’s provided that." —Army General John Campbell

The general's comments follow President Barack Obama's October announcement that he plans to reverse his prior pledge to remove all but 1,000 U.S. troops from the country by the conclusion of 2016. Instead, Obama proclaimed that the 9,800 troops will be maintained through most of 2016 and then cut to 5,500 by the beginning of 2017.

Even then, Obama's statement came despite the official declaration a year ago that the war was "over."

But now Campbell plans to ask the president to put off troop withdrawals even further by delaying the reduction to 5,500 troops.

"If I don't believe that we can accomplish the train, advise and assist... the (counter-terrorism) missions, then I owe it to the senior leadership to come back and say, 'Here's what I need,'" Campbell said. "If that's more people, it's more people."

The general expressed confidence that he will get his way. "My job as commander on the ground is to continually make assessments," Campbell said. "Every time I've gone to the president and said, 'I need X,' I've been very, very fortunate that he’s provided that. So he’s been very flexible."

Campbell's comments come as the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan stretches well into its 15th year—and appears certain to extend into the next presidency. While many argue that the Afghanistan intervention is not, in reality, the longest war in U.S. history, it is widely recognized as the most protracted according to the official record.  

What's more, the Bilateral Security Agreement signed in 2014 by the U.S. and Afghanistan locks in another decade of heavy American involvement in the country, including the training, funding, and arming of the Afghan military. The pact also secures immunity for U.S. service members under Afghan law—a highly controversial measure in a country that has suffered civilian massacres by U.S. troops.

The U.S. is planning a military role long into Afghanistan's future despite indications that its long-term intervention and occupation so far has worsened conflict and violence, with the Taliban now showing signs of increased strength.

Meanwhile, Afghan civilians continue to pay the greatest price. In the first half of 2015 alone, United Nations agencies documented 4,921 civilian casualties (1,592 deaths and 3,329 injured).

(Sarah Lazare writes for Common Dreams …where this piece was first posted.)

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

GELFAND’S WORLD--Any year that ends on the news that George Pataki is dropping out of the presidential race can't be all bad. If nothing else, it provides an easy line for scores of underpaid comedy writers. I don't have to write the Pataki line, because my readers are of superior talent and can write their own. Beyond Pataki, we have lots of other things to look back on with a smile. 

We have much to reminisce about. Not only that -- if you were one of the minority who argued that the new millennium actually started on January 1, 2001 instead of 2000 (remember those people?) – then, this December 31, 2015 represents the end of the first half of the new decade. 

I started writing this column on another site a little more than a decade ago. My original subject was the media, in particular the ways it could manipulate public opinion unfairly or inappropriately. At the time, talk radio was a powerhouse of right wing fury, and everybody to the left and center was rendered confused and seemingly powerless to resist. There has been some change in the balance of power since then, but it wasn't through the normal political channels. 

The rise of right wing talk radio was the result of the abolition of something called the Fairness Doctrine, which had required balance in the way controversial subjects were presented by the broadcast media. Without the Fairness Doctrine in force, it became possible for Rush Limbaugh to communicate conservative doctrine for 15 hours a week, each and every week. There was no legal recourse, as there would have been previously. 

The year 2015 is notable for the fact that Rush Limbaugh (photo above) has lost power and prestige. KFI dumped Limbaugh, as did other big city stations. That doesn't mean that talk radio ceased to exist or that it became more balanced. It's still dominated by right wingers, and it still has millions of listeners. 

But something else was going on over the past decade that has made my columns of 2004 and 2005 seem archaic. People got the ability to talk back. They don't talk back to KFI or KABC directly, but they talk to each other. There are millions of people who text back and forth about every conceivable subject. 

In this, the second half of the first decade of the new millennium, communication has become 2-way. Maybe that's an understatement. Instead of 2-way, let's call it multi-way, or million-way. 

Whatever we name it, this open access network of networks that we so inadequately call social media has gone beyond being a subject to write about, much less a story for end-of-the-year columns. It is the basis of our new reality. If we are the fish, then it is now the water we exist in without even noticing or remembering. 

With millions of people reconnecting after decades of being unconnected, and with the birth of millions of online interest groups, how could our society remain the same? Here's one example of what I mean: Back in the first half of the 2000s, liberals recognized the power of talk radio to do them damage, and they debated what to do about it. I can remember long discussions in which the advice was to try to trick the radio station so that you could get on and say something contrary to the usual conservative views. In brief, you were supposed to make up some story to try to sell to the screener (that's the person who answers the phone), and then you could explain why we shouldn't reelect George W Bush. It didn't work very well. 

What's interesting about this reminiscence is that nobody would even think about this tactic nowadays. If you have a disagreement with Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, there is the internet and there is your smart phone. People invented websites and they learned to communicate by Facebook and Twitter. 

The usual response of the curmudgeonly intellectual to the existence of Twitter is to be curmudgeonly intellectual, that is to say, snooty and above it all. But beyond the Twitter followers of Justin Bieber, there is a whole societal revolution that has provided us the counterforce that we were looking for so much in 2005. 

And that's my windup to this half decade. We have much to be thankful for. We have information sources that right the wrongs and correct the lies, and do a better job of it than most newspapers ever did. 

We ought to thank Kevin Drum of MotherJones.com. We ought to thank Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. We even should thank Salon.com, which was one of the first liberal internet sites. It sort of fell by the wayside for a while, but has come back with new talent and dynamic thrust. There is a blog with the unlikely title of Lawyers Guns & Money which does some of the best work in terms of describing how workers are routinely abused not only overseas, but right here at home. We have a collection of blogs that provide scientific rationality in an era of nonsensical gossip about things health related. 

And perhaps you the readers and my writing colleagues, along with me, should tip the hat and lift a cup to Mark Siegel and Ken Draper for CityWatch LA.

 

(Bob Gelfand writes on culture and politics for City Watch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net)

-cw

 

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CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

 

 

 

 

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