Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl: A war hero or a deserter?

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Bowe Bergdahl

US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

In light of the “prisoner exchange” of US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five high-level Taliban Gitmo detainees, CNN”s Jake Tapper reports on claims Bergdahl’s on US soldiers who served with him are making about him (via):

(CNN) — The sense of pride expressed by officials of the Obama administration at the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is not shared by many of those who served with him — veterans and soldiers who call him a deserter whose “selfish act” ended up costing the lives of better men.

“I was pissed off then and I am even more so now with everything going on,” said former Sgt. Matt Vierkant, a member of Bergdahl’s platoon when he went missing on June 30, 2009. “Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him.”

Vierkant said Bergdahl needs to not only acknowledge his actions publicly but face a military trial for desertion under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

[…]

Said Bergdahl’s former squad leader, Greg Leatherman: “I’m pleased to see him returned safely. From experience I hope that he receives adequate reintegration counseling. I believe that an investigation should take place as soon as healthcare professionals deem him fit to endure one.”

Another senior Defense official said Bergdahl will not likely face any punishment. “Five years is enough,” he told CNN on condition of anonymity.

Questions surround the circumstances of Bergdahl’s disappearance. Conflicting details have since emerged about how the militants managed to capture Bergdahl. Published accounts have varied widely, from claims he walked off the post to another that he was grabbed from a latrine.

According to first-hand accounts from soldiers in his platoon, Bergdahl, while on guard duty, shed his weapons and walked off the observation post with nothing more than a compass, a knife, water, a digital camera, and a diary.

At least six soldiers were killed in subsequent searches for Bergdahl, and many soldiers in his platoon said attacks seemed to increase against the United States in Paktika Province in the days and weeks following his disappearance.

Many of Bergdahl’s fellow troops — from the seven or so who knew him best in his squad, to the larger group that comprised the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division — told CNN that they signed nondisclosure agreements agreeing to never share any information about Bergdahl’s disappearance and the efforts to recapture him. Some were willing to dismiss that document in hopes that the truth would come out about a soldier who they now fear is being hailed as a hero, while the men who lost their lives looking for him are ignored.

On top of this are disturbing tweets by Bergdahl’s dad Bob who is pressing to get more prisoners released from Gitmo.

On the surface, without digging into any history and just taking the release at face value, Bergdahl’s release would make everyone happy, a proud moment in American military history – but once you read who he was “traded” for, as well as the circumstances behind his alleged “capture” in the first place … and the murders of the US soldiers who searched for him, you get the sense that perhaps he wasn’t a POW at all – and instead a willing participant.

I’ve a lot of military who read this blog, and I’m very interested in reading your thoughts.

The Democrats’ anti-constitutional constitutional amendment. Updated

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**Posted by Phineas

Senator Harry Reid

Hates free speech

Upset by court rulings that, in effect, declare that “free speech” really means free speech, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced a constitutional amendment granting Congress sweeping powers to regulate campaign expenditures, both monetary and “in kind.” This amendment has the full support of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV):

“The shadowy Koch brothers are attempting… a hostile takeover of American democracy,” Reid charged Thursday. “No one should be able to pump unlimited funds into a political campaign.”

Reid urged his fellow lawmakers to support a proposed constitutional amendment, written by Democratic Sen. Tom Udall and co-sponsored by 40 of the Senate’s 55 Democrats, that would give Congress the right to regulate all political contributions and all spending of any kind in all federal elections. (It would also give states the power to do the same in state elections.) The Supreme Court has held such far-reaching restrictions to be unconstitutional, which is why Reid wants to take the extreme step of changing the nation’s founding document.

“Amending our Constitution is not something we take lightly,” Reid said. “But the flood of special interest money into our American democracy is one of the greatest threats our system of government has ever faced.”

You know, I fully expect Reid to soon start ranting about strawberries. But, back to the Left’s latest assault on free speech, here’s the key excerpt from the proposed amendment:

Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to federal elections, including setting limits on (1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, federal office, and (2) the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.

Byron York is right, of course: this amendment has no chance of passing the Senate and House, where two-thirds votes are needed, nor has it any chance of being approved by three-fourths of the state legislatures. It’s another attempt to find an issue that will get their base voters excited for the coming election and distract from the rolling Obamacare disaster by invoking two great liberal demons — the Koch brothers (1) and the Citizens United decision.

What is disturbing, however, is Reid and the Democrats’ willingness to put themselves on record as willing to curb our fundamental freedoms, free speech being a natural, unalienable right, in pursuit of short-term electoral goals. It’s emblematic of progressivism, which sees the Constitution as obsolete, and of the Democrats’ predilection for putting their narrow electoral interests ahead of the nation’s well-being — for instance, undercutting American forces even before they enter battle in order to oppose a Republican president. It’s not new, however; we’ve seen plenty of examples in recent years of anti-democratic Democrats, such as former Governor Perdue of North Carolina suggesting that congressional elections be delayed, something not even done during the Civil War, largely because her party was set to do poorly.

It’s not that this amendment would be unconstitutional –by the nature of the process, ratification would make it part of the Constitution and therefore “constitutional”– but its very nature is profoundly and disturbingly anti-constitutional, striking at the concepts of natural rights that are foundational to the Republic. Political speech must be free to have any meaning at all, and that includes expressing your political opinions by donating money and time or other property to further a cause or support a candidate. That the Democrats would think of attacking this fundamental freedom in order to excite their base speaks of a deep rot within their party (2), something that should concern us all.

PS: Take a look at this list of the biggest donors since 1989, and note a couple of things: first, 11 of the top 16 at least lean Democratic. You don’t find one that leans Republican until number 17. And the evil Koch brothers, whom Harry Reid denounces daily like Cato demanding the destruction of Carthage, only place 59th on the list. That alone reveals the vile cynicism of his bleatings: the Majority Leader of the United States Senate by name demagoguing against two American citizens, regardless of the truth. Second, the proposed amendment would require statutes passed by Congress to be implemented. Take a good look again at that donor list: unions and other groups have donated tens of millions to the Democrats, with unions also providing invaluable in-kind donations in the form of campaign volunteers. Does anyone think the Democrats, given half a chance, wouldn’t write implementing legislation that somehow allowed these groups to keep right on helping Democrats? If so, raise your hand; I have a bridge to sell you.

Footnotes:
(1) A pair of libertarian billionaires who are apparently plotting to take over the government with the horrifying goal of leaving us alone. Where do I sign up?
(2) Not that I wholly excuse Republicans. John McCain’s sponsorship of the hateful McCain-Feingold bill revealed him as a constitutional lightweight.

UPDATE: National Review’s Charles Cooke wrote about this a few days and had the following to say:

The move is the final act of a contrived and hamfisted morality play, whose purpose is to cast the Democratic party and its allies as champions of the people and the Kochs as a proxy for all that ails America. Lofty as its broader goal may seek to be, the whole endeavor nevertheless carries with it the ugly smack of the Bill of Attainder — of a change to the nation’s constitutional settlement that serves largely to punish two people that the man with the gavel disdains. Rambling in the general direction of a BuzzFeed reporter earlier this week, Reid inadvertently revealed something about his motivations. His reelection to the Senate in 1998, he griped, “was awful”: “I won it, but just barely. I felt it was corrupting, all this corporate money.” Translation: I almost lost my seat once, so I need the supreme law to protect me. Corruption, schmorruption. This is about power.

Do read the whole thing.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

West Virginia VA doctor: At least two waiting list patients committed suicide

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VA hospital

US Dept of Veterans Affairs

Appalling if true. This story keeps going from bad to worse:

A West Virginia doctor is coming forward with new allegations against the Department of Veterans Affairs, claiming that she too was told to put patients seeking treatment off for months on end — and that at least two of them committed suicide.

The claims add to the mounting controversy surrounding the VA, and allegations in several states that workers were concealing information about the long wait times veterans encountered. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki testified last week before Congress on the scandal, but so far has resisted calls for his resignation.

Dr. Margaret Moxness, who says she was employed at the Huntington VA Medical Center in Charleston, W.Va., from 2008 to 2010, told “Fox & Friends” on Monday that she was told to delay treatment even after she told supervisors they needed immediate care. She said at least two patients committed suicide while waiting for treatment between appointments.

“I was in a very tight-knit community,” Moxness said. “There was lots of extracurricular support: family, faith, vet centers. So we had help, but no thanks to the VA. …I mean, these men were eventually going to need more than a visit every 10 months.”

Moxness, a psychiatrist, says the VA administrators lost touch with patients and claims they were compassionless.

[…]

Moxness, who is currently writing a book on suicide, said her patients would be forced to wait  “months” for a second visit. She said that “means they’re partially treated, which means they’re worse off than no treatment at all.”

Moxness said when she complained to her supervisors that it was harmful to partially treat patients, they stopped talking to her.

“I was functionally silenced,” she said.

As the article goes on to note, many others in several cities around the country have stepped forward as well to note the excessive wait times at other VA facilities nationwide.

Citing this as a prime example of the serious downsides of government-run healthcare, John Fund writes in response:

If our government has any obligation to fulfill its many promises on health care, it should be first and foremost to the men and women who served in our armed forces. But the scandal over hidden waiting lists at a growing number of veterans’ hospitals (seven so far) — wherein dozens of veterans died while waiting months for vital treatment, and the VA covered up the lengthy wait times — should make everyone wonder whether we can place our trust in a government-managed health-care system. The Dayton Daily News reported on Sunday that its investigation of a database of claims paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs shows that the words “delay in treatment” were used 167 times. The VA paid out a total of $36.4 million to settle the claims. There could well be many more cases of “death by delay” at the VA that never came to light.

Are there lessons in the VA scandal for the rest of us if Obamacare survives and even expands?

You betcha. The first lesson is that as government expands taxpayer subsidies for health care, the demand will always outstrip supply.

[…]

The veterans’ hospital scandals now in the news in the United States show just how bad things can get when the pressure of patient demand and waiting lists affects bureaucratic behavior. As many as 40 veterans reportedly died at a Phoenix veterans’ facility because they couldn’t get the care they needed. VA administrators there and at other hospitals apparently covered it up by establishing secret waiting lists and falsifying reports.

No one is suggesting that such scandals are widespread in the general health-care system. But they should serve as a warning sign of what could happen as the pressure to ration, inherent in all government-managed health care, is applied to the general population.

Indeed.

Chilling: Reid would back Constitutional amendment limiting free speech

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Senator Harry Reid

His photo doesn’t appear next to the word ”fascist” in the dictionary, but it should.

He’s not just losing it. He has LOST it. Via BuzzFeed:

WASHINGTON — Frustrated by the “sewer” of modern American political campaigns, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Wednesday said that he would bring a constitutional amendment to the floor granting Congress the ability to set strict new limits on campaign contributions, warning he will force multiple votes if necessary to pass the measure.

“When I came to Congress, when you got money you had to list who you got it from, what their occupation was, address, and phone numbers if you had it. Then I saw things change. In 1998, [former Sen.] John Ensign and I ran against one another and we spent about $10 million in Nevada,” Reid told BuzzFeed during an interview in his Capitol office.

[…]

Things had changed for the good, he said, by 2004. “I felt so clean and pure with McCain-Feingold, which had come into being, it was wonderful. We were back where we should have been,” he said.

Then the Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United ruling, Reid said, opening the flood gates to hundreds of millions of largely unregulated money to SuperPACs. “It was as if I had jumped into the sewer … it’s awful what has happened.”

Although a number of Democrats, most notably New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall, have talked about passing a constitutional amendment to re-impose campaign finance restrictions, Reid had not been one of them — until now.

[…]

“It’s been tried before, we should continue to push this and it should become our issue. That really puts the Koch brothers up against it. We believe and I believe that there should be spending limits. We’re going to push a constitutional amendment so we can limit spending because what is going on today is awful,” Reid vowed, indicating that he’ll bring Udall’s measure to the Senate floor soon.

“We’re going to arrange a vote on it. We’re going to do it until we pass it because that’s the salvation of our country.”

Here’s a little tip: It’s not going to pass.  Absolutely positively will not. Has no chance. Reid is showboating here, hoping that not even his supporters grasp the full depth of what he is advocating – basically a Constitutional amendment that would limit the free speech of American citizens simply because they oppose the Democratic party’s agenda.

Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey breaks it down:

This is a scream of impotence, in more ways than one. First, SJ-19 has no more chance of passing out of Congress than does a bill amending the Constitution to forbid abortion. It takes two-thirds of both chambers of Congress (Article V) to send an amendment to state legislatures, and Reid won’t get to 60 in the Senate. The House won’t address it at all. Furthermore, it’s doubtful that even a majority of state legislatures would take it up; more of them are Republican than Democrat, and they’ve seen the malicious prosecution that results when putting this much power in the hands of partisans in the executive branch. Wisconsin just provided an excellent example of that.

So this is just cheap political theater in an attempt to demonize two particular donors who just happen to oppose Reid’s agenda. Democrats are about to climb onto that bandwagon that proclaims that Americans can’t be trusted to discern political arguments and that the governing class should decide who gets to participate in politics. If that’s the only strategy Reid has left for the midterms, well … Democrats are in bigger trouble than we realized.

But just imagine if he had the votes in both chambers to do this.   Think about it.  And then imagine if the roles were reversed and this was a Republican engaged in this level of grandstanding, and how the media would howl with outrage that Republicans were taking their attempts at “silencing the opposition” to a “whole new frightening level.”

Honestly, I’ve always figured Reid to be a complete snake – but this shameless attempt at basically burning the First Amendment to the Constitution takes it to a whole new disturbing level, and should chill everyone to the bone … including even the people who vote for him time and time again to represent them in Washington, DC.  But I won’t hold my breath, because that would require a consideration of citizens other than themselves, as well as a recollection of the principles upon which this country was founded – and a majority of Nevadans have repeatedly demonstrated every time they vote to keep fascists like Reid in office how little they care about the devastating consequences of their vote, not just on their state, but the country as well.

(Hat tip: Memeorandum)

Is Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency blocking inspector general probes?

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SMH

Disturbing report from Fox News:

The EPA was accused Wednesday of tolerating waste, fraud and “criminal conduct” in its own ranks, as a House committee hearing aired allegations of employee misconduct that have cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The inspector general’s office — the official watchdog tasked with overseeing the agency — also claims it’s being blocked from doing its job by a unit within the EPA.

“I’m very concerned that vital information regarding suspected employee misconduct is being withheld from the OIG,” Patrick Sullivan, assistant inspector general, testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“This is truly a broken agency,” committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said, adding that the employee problems have gotten to the point of being “intolerable.”

The committee revealed several startling allegations and cases shared by the inspector general’s office. In one case, an employee was getting paid for one or two years after moving to a retirement home, where the employee allegedly did not work. When an investigation began, the worker was simply placed on sick leave.

In another case, an employee with multiple-sclerosis was allowed to work at home for the last 20 years. However, for the past five years, she allegedly produced no work — though she was paid roughly $600,000. She retired after an investigation.

Obviously, we need to get to the bottom of this but my primary immediate concern is what will happen to the assistant inspector general – Patrick Sullivan – who is investigating this. We’ve seen before what happens to inspectors general who run afoul of the Obama administration’s “look the other way” approach when it comes to left-wing corruption and wrongdoing.

Stay tuned.

Evening Update: Phineas has more here.

Obama’s economic recovery: the chart tells the story

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**Posted by Phineas

Power Line presents three charts that show what a failure Obama’s statist economic policies have been. Here’s the one that really struck me:

BudgetChart03

(Click here for the full-sized version.)

This chart from the US Senate Budget Committee compares the trend in the labor force participation rate, roughly the percentage of the working age population that is either employed or looking for work, during the recovery from recession under both President Reagan and President Obama. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2007 recession began in December of that year. Obama entered office roughly 13 months later. Now, go to that point on both the Reagan (red) and Obama (blue) lines and trace their progress. This shows clearly that Obama’s economic policies have been a nightmare for working people, with hundreds of thousands, at least, just giving up looking for work.

Why on Earth, then, should any responsible citizen wish to vote for any candidate that promises to continue those same devastating policies?

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Glorious #Obamacare success story! Alabama widows kicked off their insurance plans!

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**Posted by Phineas

"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

The law of unintended consequences (1) strikes again. First widows; are orphans next?

(Transcript via The Weekly Standard)

“More than two dozen widows who were married to retired Madison county employees, lost their health insurance coverage earlier this year. And now one commissioner says it’s time to give it back to them. The change was sparked by the new federal health care law, but whether or not coverage can actually be restored really isn’t clear,” said the anchor.

Says the reporter, “Madison county commissioner Roger Jones says no one realized just how much the new federal health care law would change things, especially for the spouses of some of his former employees.”
 
“A lot of these people are on fixed incomes, low fixed incomes. Some of them are living on Social Security and very little else and health insurance is very important to them,” says the county commissioner.

Essentially, the county had self-insured and provided coverage to the widows of its former employees. It’s a nice benefit, something I gather isn’t all that common.

But things changed when our glorious new healthcare act became law and we started to find out what was in it: Madison county discovered that, thanks to all the new requirements, it would cost them an extra $25,000,000 to cover the widows. They didn’t have the money, so guess who lost their insurance?

Apologists might argue that the county or state could raise taxes and fees to cover the expenses, or, even if they couldn’t, the widows still have Medicare and Medicaid (Oh, joy.) available, thanks to the ACA. So it’s not really a problem, right? Just a few bugs to work out.

But that’s not the point. These people had an insurance plan that met their needs, and the county was honoring its promise to its employees. There was no good reason for government to come in like a bull in a china shop and wreck those arrangements. Now, thanks to Barack Obama and the Democratic Party (2), you literally have widows on fixed incomes left without health insurance. And who knows how many places in America this story or ones similar to it are playing out?

This thing is an anti-constitutional monstrosity and it has got to go.

RELATED: More from Hot Air on the difficulties of restoring coverage to these people.

Footnote:
(1) Also known as: “Things that inevitably happen when a bunch of arrogant fools think they can control by bureaucratic ukase a complex, varied economy composed of millions of individuals with highly varied needs.”
(2) Remember, kids, not a single Republican voted for this mess, and we’ve been warning it would be a train wreck from Day One.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Disturbing: NY Health Dept. doesn’t inspect its 25 abortion clinics very often

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Coat hanger feminists

Say no to coat hangers, because vacuum suction is so much more ‘safe and humane.’ Foolish protests like this play a large role in lax abortion clinic inspections across America.
Photo courtesy of Eric Gay/AP

I wish I could say I was shocked by this news but, sadly, I’m not (bolded emphasis added by me):

The state Health Department is failing to inspect many of New York’s abortion clinics — with some facilities escaping scrutiny for more than a decade, bombshell documents obtained by The Post reveal.

Health inspectors regulate 25 diagnostic and treatment clinics and surgery centers that provide abortion services — though pro-choice advocates say there are 225 abortion service providers in New York state.

Eight of the 25 clinics were never inspected over the 2000-12 span, five were inspected just once, and eight were inspected only twice or three times — meaning once every four or six years.

A total of just 45 inspections were conducted at all 25 facilities during the 12-year period.

By comparison, city eateries are inspected every year and graded, while a new law requires tanning salons to undergo inspections at least once every other year.

Frightening. Remind y’all of anything?

Disclosure of the state’s failings came after a Freedom of Information request by the New York-based Chiaroscuro Foundation. The organization was concerned about the safety of the state’s abortion clinics following the trial and conviction of Philadelphia late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell.

Last May, Gosnell was convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of three infants who were born alive after botched abortions performed in his run-down West Philadelphia clinic. He was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a 41-year-old woman who died from an overdose of anesthetic drugs during an abortion procedure.

Prosecutors and former clinic workers had testified to the decaying, dangerous operating rooms of Gosnell’s clinic, stocked with “filthy, corroded” instruments and outdated machines. Yet, as the almost 300-page grand jury report noted, Gosnell’s clinic had gone uninspected by state department of health officials for over 16 years.

Unfortunately, Gosnell’s “house of horrors” is not unique in the abortion industry. Abortion clinics across the country are under investigation for dangerous, unsanitary conditions that jeopardize women’s lives and health.

I’m sure the “women’s health advocates” like NOW, NARAL, and other so-called “feminist” groups will be all over this demanding more inspections and a crackdown on the lax oversight — just as soon as they get done protesting in states like TX and North Carolina over legislation designed to make abortion clinics safer for women by way of using ambulatory surgical center standards. /sarc

Aborted babies incinerated to heat British hospitals

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**Posted by Phineas

"The new god of medicine?"

“The new god of medicine?”

Just horrifying:

The bodies of thousands of aborted and miscarried babies were incinerated as clinical waste, with some even used to heat hospitals, an investigation has found.

Ten NHS trusts have admitted burning foetal remains alongside other rubbish while two others used the bodies in ‘waste-to-energy’ plants which generate power for heat.

Last night the Department of Health issued an instant ban on the practice which health minister Dr Dan Poulter branded ‘totally unacceptable.’

At least 15,500 foetal remains were incinerated by 27 NHS trusts over the last two years alone, Channel 4’s Dispatches discovered.

The programme, which will air tonight, found that parents who lose children in early pregnancy were often treated without compassion and were not consulted about what they wanted to happen to the remains.

It didn’t happen in every UK hospital –one was appalled to learn another had been shipping its fetal remains to the first hospital to be burned– but that something like this could happen at all is nauseating. And not just for the callous treatment of human remains, like a fiery version of Soylent Green, but the miserable treatment of the parents, too. Remember, an abortion may be performed for medical necessity, not just to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy. Shouldn’t the parents in at least these cases be treated with more respect and empathy?

There have been a number of horror stories coming out of the UK National Health Service involving poor care or downright abusive treatment of patients and their families, almost all of them traceable in their origin to the dynamics of a government-run healthcare system. Oxford bioethicists have even argued in favor of post-natal abortion (1), on the grounds that a newborn isn’t capable yet of attributing value to its own existence, and thus can’t feel the loss of it.

And now this, the new fires of Moloch.

Footnote:
(1) What most of us in the real world would call “infanticide” and “murder.”

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)