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The Revenge of Arithmetic

May 30th, 2014 - 5:02 pm

The first thing a database developer learns to fear is data corruption. “Data corruption refers to errors in computer data that occur during writing, reading, storage, transmission, or processing, which introduce unintended changes to the original data.” If left unchecked, data corruption eventually renders a database completely useless; not only useless, but harmful.

A useless database only fails to give you answers. A harmful database actually gives you consistently wrong answers. This was exactly what happened to the Veteran’s Affairs, according to the Washington Post.

About two years ago, Brian Turner took a job as a scheduling clerk at a Veterans Affairs health clinic in Austin. A few weeks later, he said, a supervisor came by to instruct him how to cook the books….

This is how it worked: A patient asked for an appointment on a specific day. Turner found the next available time slot. But, often, it was many days later than the patient had wanted.

Would that later date work? If the patient said yes, Turner canceled the whole process and started over. This time, he typed in that the patient had wanted that later date all along. So now, the official wait time was . . . a perfect zero days….

But all this was apparently a secret to Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, perched 12 levels above Turner in the VA’s towering bureaucracy. Somewhere underneath Shinseki — among the undersecretaries and deputy undersecretaries and bosses and sub-bosses — the fact that clerks were cheating the system was lost.

The Post’s David Farenthold says VA corruption began with the Republican Warren Harding, who nominated his poker buddy, Charles Forbes, to head the agency in 1921. Forbes, however, was a scoundrel. Harding, on being tainted by the scandal, apparently took things into his own hands, if one may pardon the pun, in the most politically incorrect of ways.

Eventually, Forbes was caught. The president was unhappy. In 1923, a White House visitor opened the wrong door and found Harding choking Forbes with his bare hands.

“You yellow rat! You double-crossing bastard!” Harding was saying, according to historians. When he noticed the visitor, he let go of Forbes’s neck.

But the damage, Farenthold seems to imply, had been done. A “culture of corruption” had taken root in the VA and it lingered like a miasma in the corridors – the Washington Post story goes on to say — until the reformer Bill Clinton arrived to clean house. He would banish the culture of corruption by instituting The System.  Clinton appointed Kenneth Kizer to exorcise it with computers, performance measurements and regulation.

Seventy years after Forbes was gone, the place was still wrapped in that red tape.

That was clear on the day that Kenneth Kizer — a reformer appointed by President Bill Clinton — arrived at the VA’s health service.

“I had to approve reimbursement of a secretary . . . purchasing a cable for her computer. I think it was something like $11 or $12,” Kizer said. There was a form. He had to sign it personally. “Here I’m running this multibillion dollar organization with — at that time — 200,000 employees. And I’m having to approve reimbursements for somebody.”

Kizer set out to change that. He cut back on staffing at VA headquarters in Washington and at regional headquarters. He cut out layers in the chain of command. And he embraced the idea that statistics could allow the agency’s leaders to peer around those middlemen and see the bottom from the top.

In place of the clerk approving the reimbursement, Kizer substituted the System. But somewhere along the line Kizer forgot the Primitive. Somewhere deep down in the foundations of his 12 story bureaucracy, after you got past the shiny front end, some relay clicked, some bit was flipped or someone typed something that all made it work.

But whereas Forbes knew the whole edifice to be founded on the corrupt Primitive, Kizer’s shiny machinery elided that fact under 12 layers of bureaucracy. The statistics oozed out of the layers, anonymized, disinfected by its passage through software until it landed on the administrator’s desk.

The Primitive was forgotten. And so were the ghosts. The fact was that somewhere in the VA the “culture of corruption” had survived the fumigation. Because it was everywhere and nowhere to begin with. The Star Trek universe gave us perhaps the best description of the culture of corruption. It works like the Borg Mind, which is a property of the collective.

The Borg Mind is sometimes known as consensus. The Washington Post’s story described it in action: how clerks “zeroed out” waiting times because they were expected to. The more clerks zeroed out the waiting times the truer the lie became. The falsehood gained momentum till faked waiting times became the official truth. The lie became the narrative while the brute fact became a lie. If you flip enough bits at the level of the primitive, the whole system state in its entirety flips. In that vast anthill, no individual clerk could run counter to the narrative. “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated”.

But if so, why did the Borg Cube explode just now? Because there is in every system, even the Federal Government, a parallel apparatus is always in effect which one can call Reality. We forget that it exists, but it is there in the background, like some top level object to which we barely pay attention. Whenever the variance between the narrative and reality becomes too large, the narrative loses. The top level object throws an error and the narrative is garbage-collected. The Borg Cube, however powerful, can never ever beat Arithmetic. The 12 layers of the VA fought the law of addition and the law won.

So it is no surprise that Eric Shinseki and Jay Carney’s resignations were announced today. They were, after all, the faces of a  narrative that is no longer tenable. That’s how bureaucracy fixes things. It never admits to a fault, but simply executes mass update queries until the System is brought into tolerable concordance with Reality. But the primitives all remain. And the process of corruption begins again until forgotten Reality steps in. The Borg, though scattered, will slowly regain their strength, until the next time.

Perhaps one of the most interesting examples of the way data corruption works is the Korean War memorial that was just unveiled in Yoctangee Parkway in Chillicothe, Ohio. It is laughably wrong. “Donald Darby is a former Naval intelligence officer … quickly spotted a Gulf War-era tank, a Vietnam-era machine gun, F-16 fighter jets that weren’t produced until the early 1970s, Kevlar combat helmets first used by soldiers in the mid-1980s and a Huey medivac helicopter that wasn’t used by the military until several years after the Korean War ended.”

A Kevlar helmet here, an M1 tank there, a UH-1 in the corner, a few F-16s thrown in and pretty soon you have imagery that appeals to people whose understanding of history is derived entirely from the movies. Hell, it looks like war doesn’t it?

But as another person interviewed for the article said, “I don’t see what the big deal is.” Clearly, not nearly as big a deal as forcing the contractor who supplied the monument to return the fee. Korea has been called the “Forgotten War”. The System’s answer to this is to forget that we’ve forgotten.


A Product of the System

How can we be so cavalier about the facts? Perhaps one of the worst things about the “post-modern” age is the pervasive belief that lies are harmless, that in other words the truth doesn’t exist; merely something you create by issuing talking points, faked memos and bogus facts. We are taught it is endlessly malleable and smugly told you can explain away an attack on a US consulate in Benghazi by blaming a video produced in LA.

All the right people believe truth is fake, but interestingly enough the lie never extinguishes the truth. Rather, by pushing against reality, it compresses a spring which sooner or later will give up its energy in an explosive way.  Kicking stuff down the road doesn’t make it go away, it simply stores up the junk in the top shelf of the hall closet. One day you open the closet and …

The Obama administration would do well to realize that it isn’t the pathetic GOP they have to worry about, but Reality. Reality exists, and that spring is wound up about as far as it will go, and then Reality is a b***h. Everyone learns this in the end. Max Planck once sadly observed that progress was rarely made by comfortably extending cherished routines but through “acts of desperation”, seemingly achieved against our own will. We learn because we have to. The only difference is that the intelligent would rather learn it sooner than later.

Even when an administration lies, it must itself know the truth. Of all the side-effects of falsehood, none is more dangerous than self-deception.

In a recent interview with NPR, president Obama spoke of his policy in the Ukraine as a success. “The fact that Crimea …  was annexed illegally does not in any way negate the fact that the way of life, the systems of economic organization, the notions of rule of law, those values that we hold dear, are ascendant, and you know, the other side is going to be on the defense.” Does he really believe that? Or is that for public consumption.

It is one thing to lie, knowing the truth.  It is quite another to lie, not caring. An actor may play Napoleon and still be sane but when you stop knowing it is just a role then it’s time to worry.

Recent items of interest by Belmont readers based on Amazon click-throughs.

A Very Principled Boy: The Life of Duncan Lee, Red Spy and Cold Warrior
Sea of Shadows
Empire of Secrets Pb
Inside Gorbachev’s Kremlin
The Last Caliphate
The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014
Patient Safety in Emergency Medicine
Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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Top Rated Comments   
D.C. under the Democrats is like a restaurant where the food is horrible and the portions are small. The only reason you chose this restaurant is because you got a coupon promising that some rich guy will pay for it all. Once you get inside you find that the additional fees they charge and special provisions you must buy will make the meal expensive even with the coupon. You'd like to leave but you can't because the restaurant is actually a maze. In order to get out you got to fill out forms and hire lawyers and lobbyist and make contributions to political campaigns. Since you are stuck there you eat the food and get sick. They promise you free health care and collect a fee and put your name on a waiting list and collect another fee. Later, they come round and collect an additional fee because the cost of free health care has gone up. You realize that free health care is very expensive. You don't see a doctor but you do lose your job and run out of money. At that point they send you to a homeless shelter which, strangely, feels like an improvement. You'd like to drink ethanol from a bottle in brown paper bag but it's all getting mixed with gasoline. However, if you agree to vote for the Democrats they will give you a pack of cigarettes so it's not all bad.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
>>> Eventually, Forbes was caught. The president was unhappy. In 1923, a White House visitor opened the wrong door and found Harding choking Forbes with his bare hands.

“You yellow rat! You double-crossing bastard!” Harding was saying, according to historians. When he noticed the visitor, he let go of Forbes’s neck.<<<

I would pay good money to see that on pay-per-view uninterrupted, involving a Patriot successor to Obama -v- his entire administration. Even more for a ringside seat.

As far as the corrupt data generated by a corrupt system; it has to be noted that both the institutionalized delays causing deaths of veterans, and the institutionalized rewards for supervisors crossed regions and time spans to such an extent that the level "Somewhere underneath Shinseki — among the undersecretaries and deputy undersecretaries and bosses and sub-bosses" has to be real, real close to Shinseki. And perhaps in his shoes. And since money is involved, has anyone audited the bosses who got the bonuses? And maybe their bosses? And maybe all the way to Shinseki or above. Kickbacks are features, not bugs, in Democrat administrations. And government money is free, right?

The key problem is not merely that the system generates both corrupt data and intrinsic corruption. That is a natural byproduct of an all-powerful government. The problem is that there is absolutely no way to either correct the corrupt data or to keep the corruption within bounds. There is no theft, felony, abuse of trust, bribery, or assault on the Constitution that will be cause for actual punishment of any TWANLOC government official or person connected to them. The worst case for them is an early retirement on full pension. And probably a follow-up, well compensated job with a NGO.

The engineering concept of "Destructive Physical Analysis" is referenced. The specimen is our country, its people, and our unique culture.

Subotai Bahadur
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
It was Obama Beach, right next to Udall Beach, where Obama climbed the cliffs at Point Ad Hoc.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (137)
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Great article. And the disconnect between public narrative and reality is particularly apt for Obama since his top and almost only priority is creating the illusion of good governance, with the reality of good governance being a distant insignificant priority for him.
I have a suggestion for reforming this VA computer wait system for honesty. Let the vets themselves be able to access this computer data for their personal data, having access to the same raw data that eventually comprises the reports to DC. Design it so the vet can login, and then find out when the system says he first showed up to request a procedure, what dates were offered to him, when, which offers he declined or accepted, and what wait time figure is being reported upward for that specific procedure for him (including the rules by which it was calculated). Then provide somebody the vet can call if he thinks he is getting hozed, and thinks the clerks are pulling a fast one. The person the vet calls (who should be outside of the local hospitals chain so he does not worry about retaliation, and gets his bonusses by how many instances of bad data he finds and fixes) can look it up himself, and either explain to the vet why it is correct, or report on the fraudster himself, and ensure the bad data is fixed, reporting basck to the vet on how his complaint was resolved. Then these error reports are collated, and the people orignating the bad data have to explain what they were doing. If the potential fraudsters are repeatedly caught and dinged, and it is more of an inconvenience to explain why they keep entering bogus data, or deceptively manipulating the rules, than explaining why their hospital is not meeting the latest 5 yr plan, eventually they may even develop an incentive to be honest the first time. Of course this solution would require they modify and modernize the computer scheduling system in a competant manner, something which may be impossible given past experience with the obamacare website, but if this was done and working, there would be a real deterrent in the system for fraud, at least for those vets who are savvy enough to look up their appointments and report problems (and for the rest, I suppose they could give their login to family and vet friends to do it for them).
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Twelve layers of bureaucracy? Wow. I'm an "individual contributor" (someone with no direct reports) at a Fortune 10 company and yet there are only six layers between me and the CEO.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I see part of the problem in that much of our own culture is celebrity-driven. When you're a cubicle monkey in a joyless, no-real-responsibility job, you have two things going for you; Your anonymity in your workplace and the time off you relish where you can take your meager earnings and drink them, use them to engage in "extreme" sports or activities or otherwise feed your alter-ego.

You know, the one where you're a star. Or think you are. You have your mega-expensive carbon-fiber multi-speed two-wheeler complete with matching Spandex togs or maybe you're a "closet rebel" with a nice vintage Harley and you live for the days you can get out and ride and be the rebel you KNOW you were born to be.

In all cases, the time off of your mundane, mind-numbing job at the VA is your REAL life and who gives a crap what happens there anyway?

Which brings me to the next part:


I learned a long time ago as a model-builder that details are important. Not just in the hobby of making a replica, but in life and in general. Sure, you "washed" the car but it dried with streaks and the windows look like crap.

Hence the expression getting "detailed" vs. just getting "washed".

So many people today are not interested in the details, unless it's a Kardashian wedding or dressing out your Harley for that "really badass look" that describes the "real" you.

But at your job, it's "good enough for government work" as the saying goes, right? Who's gonna notice? The supervisor is more concerned with the things that'll get him noticed for his next promotion so most of the details don't matter.

But details DO matter. Crossing T's and Dotting I's. But, see, back in high school, being like that made people nerds and geeks. Being cool was more important so....the only appearance that mattered was the right sunglasses, having a tan and a cool hairdo.

The kid who wore button-down flannel shirts and worked after school to save money for college was a geek and, jeez, he could go on about DETAILS until you puked. What IS it with people like that?

Well, what it is, is that there are far too few people like that any more. Eddie Rickenbacker worried about the details. Dwight Eisenhower cared about the details. Harry Truman took care of the details.

We now have a population that only cares about the general condition of everything. In general, things are fine. In general, people are doing their jobs. In general, things look pretty ok. Except when it's needed for a soundbite or eye-catching grab where all of a sudden, things are outstanding.

Except they're not.

They are failing. And failing miserably. Nobody cares about the details. Hitlery said, "What difference, at this point, does it make?".

And that sums up the attitude of America and Americans today.

Movies suck but they are making, in general, the industry is doing fine.

We make less than 10% of the products we use in America now, but everyone has everything they need, so, in general, everything is fine.

Kids are fat, or they're starving, depending on which article you read. But nobody really gives a damn, and to be fair, it's not anything the government needs to be involved with.

But as for details, no one cares to look, investigate, or even be remotely curious as there's no incentive to do so. Quality assurance programs become politically driven havens for promotion-seekers. Cubicle jobs have eliminated the ability of a person of any ability to display any initiative for, if they do, they are summarily punished or dismissed or both.

That ties in with the way society is driven by the collective mindset that leadership is being the boss. becomes the boss by displaying leadership. I have seen very few leaders and even fewer stand-outs in that department as it is.

But nobody cares about details anymore. Only us geeks and nerds who know that the whole is made up of a lot of small, seemingly inconsequential details. But they matter. They matter a lot.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Actually, the reason for the corrupted data is quite simple. The government has hired an inordinate amount of women to work for it, and women can't do math.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
All monopolies, including the Government Monopoly, suffer from the lack of the "Feedback of Competition". Without the "Feedback of Competition" forcing continuous improvements in Quality, Service, and Price, as happens in free markets. Monopolies get milked for the benefit of insiders with waste, corruption, feather bedding, empire building, and outright theft.

People hate change, and unless forced to it by a threat of survival, will not change. This is why Communism is such a failure, why Socialism is such a failure, why our Government is so bad, and why Monopolies have been outlawed. It isn't a DATA Management problem, it's a People problem.

The only way mankind has found to limit the badness, is the way the Founding Fathers tried to implement, by limiting the size and scope of the Government Monopoly. Unfortunately 238 years of power hungry insiders has circumvented the written Constitution. Now there are entire departments and agencies that while nowhere in the Constitution is authority enumerated for them, and the 9th and 10th Amendments specifically forbid their existence, yet there they are wasting taxpayer money in the Trillions of Dollars.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Perfectly stated.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Donald Sterling was asked which team will win the championship this year:

"The Clippers, but then again, I'm prejudiced"

- Greg Fitzsimmons
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, the Beast is like the Borg. The Borg can be defeated. Good essay.

Now the bad news: Concerning the Korean War monument, and the Huey that wasn't there -- the picture isn't of a Huey It's an H-19 Chickasaw. They definitely had them in the Korean War., right at the end.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why am I seeing kevlar helmets on a memorial to men who wore WWII steel pots?
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
See RWE below, along with my rocket powered addition.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm reminded of a trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park several years ago. Early one morning my family and I took a trail out looking for moose. Upon our return we passed several park rangers who moved up an adjacent trail.

We found out later that day that a boy had been attacked by a mountain lion. Apparently he and his sister moved to far forward from their parents. Sadly the boy died. It sure brought things home for us as we had a boy and girl the same age.

Anyway a year later we were at the park again and I ask a ranger what they discovered about the attack since there was plenty of food and water for the cats. It was an oddity, the cat wasn't sickly, it just took advantage of an opportunity to strike.

What amazed me was that the ranger corrected me stating that the cat had not killed the boy. Surprised I asked what in the world he was talking about. Apparently the official record stated that the boy choked to death. Of course he choked on his own bile with a mountain lion dragging him through the woods.

It's too easy for them to manipulate the data.

Why care if the Russian, Chinese or other rogue parties are hacking in and manipulating data? Hell they may be correcting prior input errors.

39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Amazing story.
Were you left in stunned silence?
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
No Justice I find you post so reassuring.

You see my part of the Hollywood Hills has three mountain lions which our glorious city (Los Angeles) tracks, but not harms in anyway nor tries to deter. City Officials are just orgasmically giddy with the idea of a mountain lion in our midst.

I am just waiting in fear for some young neighborhood child, like the young boy from your experience, to "choke on his own bile" as you put it.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
We had a bicyclist killed here in south Orange County a few years ago. The cat covered him up for future meals, and went after another bicyclist. The only thing that saved her was her partner, who beat the cat into dropping her. They did get that cat, but there are still others, and they've been seen in the same area.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unsk attacks are more common than most think. I camp in the Big Bend of Texas. While having lunch one day an employee of the restaurant in the Chisos Basin told a story of being on the wrong side of an outcropping as the sun was setting. It was his day off and he had gone for a jog. He decided to throw rocks and run past them (underneath their perch).

Since then I read where the staff allowed a mountain lion into the main lodging area. It would lounge on the cool pavement outside doors. One day a woman was walking her child across the parking lot and the lion attacked the child. She successfully beat it off. Which begs the question why they allowed it space in an area populated with humans.

The larger lessons are to respect nature, never hike alone, and never let your children go roam on their own in the wild. Had the larger parents been around, the children may not have been attacked as the animal would have been spooked away by the number and size of the human. The Chisos Basin story is disconcerting since the child's mother was with the boy.

Oh yeah, and don't trust the fatality reports published by the park system.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
No doubt numerous dogs and cats have paid the ultimate price.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
There was the one that made it into downtown Santa Monica about a year ago, it didn't make it out again, I forget the details, it probably was poisoned by gorging on bad sushi and kale, or maybe it died of despair at finding itself the only living being in miles without a iPhone5.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
If they admit they have a man-killer in the park, they'd have to kill it. That's anathema to the Green Cult, so they cannot admit what happened.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Button on a lobbyist, circa 1980: "Reality is negotiable."

"You know, the health service (Britain's NHC) doesn't work. I'm still for it. But it doesn't work." -- Retiring New York Times columnist describing his view of Britain's National Health Service

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them....To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.”-- George Orwell

It has been said that there are only two philosophies, with all others mere variants: Plato's Idealism (the mind creates reality) & Aristotle's Realism (reality is independent of any mind (natural or supernatural)), which job is to identify what's real, not manufacture it by means of thoughts, wishes, opinions, prayers, feelings, hopes--or force).

Welcome to (another) Platonist Epoch. Others include, in varying places, the Rule of the Maharajahs in India, the Dynastic Ages in China, Post-Peloponnesian Greece, Imperial Rome, the Dark Ages, the Great Islamic Conversion, 19th Century Prussia, 20th Century Bushido Nippon, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Communist Russia, New Deal America, New Left 60s America.

Aristotle dominated the West in ancient Greece (prior to c. 400 BCE); the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and throughout most of the 19th Century, especially in the United States.

Obama fits the image (media sculpted but also substantially authentic) of Plato's Philosopher King. And his vision for remaking the United States of America--along with that of the Angry New Left, progressive & liberal Democrats and more than a host of others--is Plato's vision of the Ideal State:

"The best ordered state will be one in which the largest number of persons ... most nearly resembles a single person. The first and highest form of the State ... is a condition in which the private and the individual is altogether banished from life, and things which are by nature private, such as eyes and ears and hands, have become common, and in some way see and hear and act in common, and all men express praise and blame and feel joy and sorrow on the same occasion, and whatever laws there are unite the city to the utmost ..." (Plato's _Republic_ & _Laws_ c. 370 BCE)i

To which Aristotle would reply: "Republics decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms."

The weapons of Obama & the rest: tolerance and apathy, both of which a growing by leaps and bounds, particularly among the young.

To which Aristotle would reply: "Tolerance and apathy are the last virtues of a dying civilization."

The means for defeating such Platonist Idealists is reason (not more or different variants of supernaturalism (mind creates reality); rights (moral principles sanctioning an individual's freedom of expression and action in a social context) **especially property rights**; and a moral code of rational egoism.

Pick up these weapons and use them with the most scrupulous regard for Truth and for Justice. Your enemies dropped them long ago. What they are counting on is your mercy, your forgiveness, your willingness to compromise.

In short, your moral sanction.

Don't give it to them.

"The truly and deliberately evil men are a very small minority; it is the appeaser who unleashes them on mankind; it is the appeaser's intellectual abdication that invites them to take over. When a culture's dominant trend is geared to irrationality, the thugs win over the appeasers. When intellectual leaders fail to foster the best in the mixed, unformed, vacillating character of people at large, the thugs are sure to bring out the worst. When the ablest men turn into cowards, the average men turn into brutes." - Ayn Rand, The Objectivist, "Altruism as Appeasement," January 1966.

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39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
While Vets Wait, VA Employees Do Union Work
Millions of dollars are spent on paying health professionals to do full-time work for their unions.

In fiscal year 2011, the latest on record, the VA used 998,483 hours of this “official time,” costing taxpayers more than $42 million. (by my Math, that's nearly 42 dollars an hour)

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid at least $11.4 million to 174 nurses, mental-health specialists, therapists, and other health-care professionals who, instead of caring for veterans, worked full-time doing union business.

In Columbia, S.C., the VA pays one health technician a $40,706 salary to work for the American Federation of Government Employees.

At that same location, CNN reported in January, a 44-year-old veteran named Barry Coates was forced to wait a year for a colonoscopy, despite intense pain, constipation, and rectal bleeding. When Coates finally got his appointment, doctors found a tumor the size of a baseball — Stage 4 colorectal cancer that had metastasized elsewhere.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
After Shinseki

Eric Shinseki’s resignation is only the first step in the long process of getting the Department of Veterans Affairs to do its job properly. There is little doubt that Shinseki, an honorable man, truly wanted to fix the broken bureaucracy he inherited. But his failure to do so, and the scandalous practices under his watch, justified his removal.

Two other, immediate steps are called for: The Senate should take up and the president should sign the VA Accountability Act, which the House passed last week 390–33. It would make it easier to fire senior VA administrators. That is currently quite hard to do...
39 weeks ago
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