Posts Tagged With: United States

Original American Art Forms. Born of Struggle and Played In Celebration

 

 

 

 

Black History is American History.

Dr Carter G Woodson, the Father of Black History Month, looked forward to a time when general American History would incorporate Black History.

But, as it is, we get one month a year to reflect upon and to teach the history of the contributions of African Americans to American History, World History and to civilization.

Black History is much more than a few extraordinary individuals, or a few practices; such as, slavery, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement.

A lot of Black History is painful, but a lot of it is inspiring.

As Dr MLK has said “We have been able to hew out of the Mountain of Despair a Stone of hope.”

Black History did not begin at Plymouth Rock or Jamestown, VA.

Granted, it took the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and a lot of struggles in between to secure for African Americans the basic right to citizenship that other Americans take for granted.

I will not try to paint with such a broad brush today.

Some where between Centuries of existence in Africa, the trans-Alantic Slave Trade, slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and today… a new Culture was born..

That Culture includes the Religion of the Black Church, Music, Literature, Sports, Dance, language, television, and film.

Some of these are Authentic Original American Art Forms.

They were born in struggle, but they are played in celebration.

Music is the most widely acknowledged African American contribution to American and World Culture.

Black American Music is recognized and cherished all over the world.

Enslaved Africans mixed their traditional musical styles and influences with the harsh realities of their new surroundings and created Blues, Jazz, Gospel, Rythm & Blues, Hip-hop and many variations of these genres.

 

The origins of the Blues are closely related to the religious music of the Afro-American community, the spirituals.

The origins of the so called Negro Spirituals go back much further than the Blues, usually dating back to the middle of the 18th century, when the slaves were Christianized and began to sing and play Christian hymns.

Before the Blues gained its formal definition in terms of chord progressions, it was defined as the secular counterpart of the, so called, Negro Spirituals.

It was the low-down and dirty music played by the rural Blacks.

Depending on the religious community a musician belonged to, it was more or less considered as a sin to play this low-down music: 

Blues were the devil’s music.  

Musicians were therefore segregated into two categories: gospel and Blues singers, guitar preachers and songsters.

Rural Black music began to get recorded in the 1920s, both categories of musicians used very similar techniques: call-and-response patterns, blue notes, and slide guitars.

Gospel music was nevertheless using musical forms that were compatible with Christian hymns and therefore less marked by the Blues form than its secular counterpart.

 

The first publication of blues sheet music was in 1908: Antonio Maggio’s “I Got the Blues” is the first published song to use the word blues.

W. C. Handy‘s “The Memphis Blues” followed in1912.

 Handy, said he first heard the blues in Tutwiler, Mississippi in 1903.

The first recording by an African American singer was Mamie Smith‘s 1920 rendition of Perry Bradford‘s “Crazy Blues“.

But the origins of the Blues date back to  around 1890. 

They are very poorly documented, due in part to racial discrimination within American society, including academic circles, and to the low literacy rate of the rural African American community at the time.

 

 

Chroniclers began to report about Blues music in Southern Texas and Deep South at the dawn of the 20th century.

 

 

 

 

 

Jazz as America’s Premier Art Form

 

 

 Jazz and Blues: America’s Original Art Forms

Louis Armstrong sparked jazz, a fusion of sounds popular in New Orleans

Jazz stars on postage stamps  (© AP Images)

Jazz stars have become national icons, even depicted on postage stamps.

(The following is excerpted from the U.S. Department of State publication, American Popular Music.)

 

Jazz music was the anthem for the first well-defined American youth culture. 

Rebelling against the horrors of mechanized warfare and the straitlaced morality of the 19th century, millions of college-age Americans adopted jazz as a way to mark their difference from their parents’ generation.

 

  Jazz’s attraction as a symbol of sensuality, freedom, and fun appear’s to have transcended the boundaries of race, religion, and class, creating a precedent for phenomena such as the Swing Era, Rhythm ‘n Blues, and Rock ’n’ Roll.

 

America’s classical music”, Jazz, is inextricably linked to the African American experience.

Jazz, one of America’s original art forms, emerged in New Orleans, Louisiana, around 1900.

New Orleans’s position as a gateway between the United States and the Caribbean, its socially stratified population, and its strong residues of colonial French culture, encouraged the formation of a hybrid musical culture unlike that in any other American city.

Jazz emerged from the confluence of New Orleans’s diverse musical traditions, including ragtime, marching bands, the rhythms used in Mardi Gras and funerary processions, and African-American song traditions, both sacred (the Spirituals) and secular (the Blues).

The New Orleans-born cornetist and singer Louis Armstrong is commonly credited with establishing certain core features of jazz – particularly its rhythmic drive or swing and its emphasis on solo instrumental virtuosity.

 Armstrong also profoundly influenced the development of mainstream popular singing during the 1920s and 1930s.  

Armstrong emerged as an influential musician on the local scene in the years following World War I, and subsequently migrated to Chicago to join the band of his mentor King (Joe) Oliver, playing on what are regarded by many critics as the first real jazz records.

In 1924 Armstrong joined Fletcher Henderson’s band in New York City, pushing the band in the direction of a hotter, more improvisatory style that helped to create the synthesis of jazz and ballroom dance music that would later be called Swing.

By the 1930s Armstrong was the best–known Black musician in the world, as a result of his recordings and film and radio appearances.

Throughout his career Armstrong often spoke of the importance of maintaining a balance between improvisation (or “routining,” as he called it) and straightforward treatment of the melody.

Ain’t no sense in playing a hundred notes if one will do,” Armstrong is reported to have said on his 70th birthday.

[This article is excerpted from American Popular Music: From Minstrelsy to MP3 by Larry Starr and Christopher Waterman, published by Oxford University Press, copyright (2003, 2007), and offered in an abridged edition by the Bureau of International Information Programs.]

 

Who generally began to say, JAZZ is “America’s Premier Art Form”?

This question was posted to a jazz research message board on April 19, 2008.

U S Representative John Conyers, authored a Congressional Bill (HR 57) in 1987 which designated Jazz “a rare and valuable national American treasure to which we should devote our attention, support and resources to make certain it is preserved, understood and promulgated.”

It became  the Jazz Preservation Act.

Rep. John Conyers’s good friend, Dr. Billy Taylor, called Jazz “America’s classical music” long before the Jazz Preservation Act .

Dizzy Gillespie said jazz is “our native art form” in 1957,

And an unnamed contributor to Harper‘s described “talk of jazz as a native art-form” in 1950,

and

A 1946 issue of the New Republic called jazz “the only original American art form.”

The Jazz Record, insisted that jazz is “America’s first wholly native art form” (ca. 1943) and

In 1944 RCA Victor issued a set of records claiming to be “presenting Jazz music as an American art form worthy of study.”

Earlier citations  included:

“Naturally, there have clustered together little groups of serious European thinkers to make the same discovery that Americans have made, that Jazz is a great art form” (Paul Whiteman, Time, 1926); “as far as America is concerned it (jazz) is actually our characteristic expression” (Gilbert Seldes, The Seven Lively Arts, 1924);

 

The quotes from the earlier dates are significant in that this was a minority opinion among the cultural elite at the time.

There was much heated debate about whether or not Jazz was even music, much less art. 

Mostly classical conductors, saw jazz as having artistic merit, but most saw it as an abomination that would lead to the corruption of society, probably because of its purported origins in African American culture.

 

 

Ken Burns took jazz away from the improvisers and performing musicians and put it into the hands of corporate-friendly composers and academicians.

When James Reese Europe brought his African American military ragtime band to France in 1918, the local musicians couldn’t believe the sounds that the Harlem Hell-fighters were producing with their instruments.

Trumpets growled and wah-ed, 

            Trombones slided and belched,

                          Saxophones bent notes and played without vibrato.

The first “official” jazz recording in 1917 of the Original Dixieland Jass Band included “Livery Stable Blues,” where the instruments imitated the sounds of barnyard animals.

Over the decades, an indispensable aspect of the artistry of jazz performance was mastery of a set of extended techniques that could become part of one’s “voice.”

Johnny Hodges’s swooping melodies,  

Roy Eldridge’s growls,  Walter Page’s slap bass.

Listen to John Coltrane and ask yourself if his sound and technique would have any place in the classical saxophone world.

One thing is clear, Coltrane was original—and he was original in a field of original saxophonists.

It doesn’t take a very discerning ear to hear the difference between Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Dewey Redman, Warne Marsh, Stan Getz, or Dexter Gordon.

Each took an unorthodox way of playing and milked it into a personal voice.

 

Blues

Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the “Deep South” of the United States around the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads.

 

The origins of the blues are closely related to the religious music of the Afro-American community, the spirituals. The origins of spirituals go back much further than the blues, usually dating back to the middle of the 18th century, when the slaves were Christianized and began to sing and play Christian hymns, in particular those of Isaac Watts, which were very popular. Before the blues gained its formal definition in terms of chord progressions, it was defined as the secular counterpart of the spirituals. It was the low-down music played by the rural Blacks.

Depending on the religious community a musician belonged to, it was more or less considered as a sin to play this low-down music: blues was the devil’s music. Musicians were therefore segregated into two categories: gospel and blues singers, guitar preachers and songsters. However, at the time rural Black music began to get recorded in the 1920s, both categories of musicians used very similar techniques: call-and-response patterns, blue notes, and slide guitars. Gospel music was nevertheless using musical forms that were compatible with Christian hymns and therefore less marked by the blues form than its secular counterpart.

Etymology

One explanation for the origin of the “blues” is that it derived from mysticism involving blue indigo, which was used by many West African cultures in death and mourning ceremonies where all the mourner’s garments would have been dyed blue to indicate suffering.

This mystical association towards the indigo plant, grown in many southern U.S. slave plantations, combined with the West African slaves who sang of their suffering as they worked on the cotton that the indigo dyed eventually resulted in these expressed songs being known as “the Blues.”

 

Lyrics

The lyrics of early traditional blues verses probably often consisted of a single line repeated four times.

The lines are often sung following a pattern closer to a rhythmic talk than to a melody.

Early blues frequently took the form of a loose narrative.

The singer voiced his or her “personal woes in a world of harsh reality: a lost love, the cruelty of police officers, oppression at the hands of white folk, [and] hard times.”

 

The lyrics often relate troubles experienced within African American society.

For instance Blind Lemon Jefferson‘s “Rising High Water Blues” (1927) tells about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927:

“Backwater rising, Southern peoples can’t make no time

I said, backwater rising, Southern peoples can’t make no time

And I can’t get no hearing from that Memphis girl of mine.”

However, although the blues gained an association with misery and oppression, the lyrics could also be humorous and raunchy as well:

“Rebecca, Rebecca, get your big legs off of me,

Rebecca, Rebecca, get your big legs off of me,

It may be sending you baby, but it’s worrying the hell out of me.”

From Big Joe Turner‘s “Rebecca”, a compilation of traditional blues lyrics

Form

 

The first publication of blues sheet music was in 1908: Antonio Maggio’s “I Got the Blues” is the first published song to use the word blues. Hart Wand‘s “Dallas Blues” followed in 1912; W. C. Handy‘s “The Memphis Blues” followed in the same year. The first recording by an African American singer was Mamie Smith‘s 1920 rendition of Perry Bradford‘s “Crazy Blues”. But the origins of the blues date back to some decades earlier, probably around 1890. They are very poorly documented, due in part to racial discrimination within American society, including academic circles, and to the low literacy rate of the rural African American community at the time.

 

 

 

The social and economic reasons for the appearance of the blues are not fully known.

The first appearance of the blues is often dated after the Emancipation Act of 1863, between 1870 and 1900,

A period that coincides with post emancipation and, later, the development of juke joints as places where Blacks went to listen to music, dance, or gamble after a hard day’s work.

This period corresponds to the transition from slavery to sharecropping,, and the expansion of railroads in the southern United States.

Several scholars characterize the early 1900s development of blues music as a move from group performances to a more individualized style.

They argue that the development of the blues is associated with the newly acquired freedom of the enslaved people.

According to Lawrence Levine, “there was a direct relationship between the national ideological emphasis upon the individual, the popularity of Booker T. Washington’s teachings, and the rise of the blues.”

Levine states that “psychologically, socially, and economically, African-Americans were being acculturated in a way that would have been impossible during slavery, and it is hardly surprising that their secular music reflected this as much as their religious music did.”

There are few characteristics common to all blues music, because the genre took its shape from the idiosyncrasies of individual performances.

Blues has evolved from the unaccompanied vocal music and oral traditions of slaves imported from West Africa

 no specific African musical form can be identified as the single direct ancestor of the blues. However many blues elements, such as the call-and-response format and the use of blue notes, can be traced back to the music of Africa.

 

 

The musical forms and styles that are now considered the “blues” as well as modern “country music” arose in the same regions during the 19th century in the southern United States.

Recorded blues and country can be found from as far back as the 1920s, when the popular record industry developed and created marketing categories called “race music” and “hillbilly music” to sell music by Blacks for blacks and by whites for whites, respectively.

At the time, there was no clear musical division between “blues” and “country,” except for the ethnicity of the performer, and even that was sometimes documented incorrectly by record companies.

Blues” became a code word for a record designed to sell to Black listeners.

 

The origins of the blues are closely related to the religious music of the Afro-American community, the spirituals. The origins of spirituals go back much further than the blues, usually dating back to the middle of the 18th century, when the slaves were Christianized and began to sing and play Christian hymns, in particular those of Isaac Watts, which were very popular. Before the blues gained its formal definition in terms of chord progressions, it was defined as the secular counterpart of the spirituals. It was the low-down music played by the rural Blacks.

Depending on the religious community a musician belonged to, it was more or less considered as a sin to play this low-down music: blues was the devil’s music. Musicians were therefore segregated into two categories: gospel and blues singers, guitar preachers and songsters. However, at the time rural Black music began to get recorded in the 1920s, both categories of musicians used very similar techniques: call-and-response patterns, blue notes, and slide guitars. Gospel music was nevertheless using musical forms that were compatible with Christian hymns and therefore less marked by the blues form than its secular counterpart.

 

1960s and 1970s

By the beginning of the 1960s, genres influenced by African American music such as rock and roll and soul were part of mainstream popular music. White performers had brought African-American music to new audiences, both within the U.S. and abroad. However, the blues wave that brought artists such as Muddy Waters to the foreground had stopped.

Bluesmen such as Big Bill Broonzy and Willie Dixon started looking for new markets in Europe. Dick Waterman and the blues festivals he organized in Europe played a major role in propagating blues music abroad. In the UK, bands emulated U.S. blues legends, and UK blues-rock-based bands had an influential role throughout the 1960s.

 

Blues performers such as John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters continued to perform to enthusiastic audiences, inspiring new artists steeped in traditional blues, such as New York–born Taj Mahal. John Lee Hooker blended his blues style with rock elements and playing with younger white musicians, creating a musical style that can be heard on the 1971 album Endless Boogie.

B. B. King‘s virtuoso guitar technique earned him the eponymous title “king of the blues”.

 

 

The music of the Civil Rights and Free Speech movements in the U.S. prompted a resurgence of interest in American roots music and early African American music.

The Jimmi Bass Music festivals such as the Newport Folk Festival brought traditional blues to a new audience, which helped to revive interest in prewar acoustic blues and performers such as Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, and Reverend Gary Davis.

Many compilations of classic prewar blues were republished by the Yazoo Records. J. B. Lenoir from the Chicago blues movement in the 1950s recorded several LPs using acoustic guitar, sometimes accompanied by Willie Dixon on the acoustic bass or drums. His songs, originally distributed in Europe only, commented on political issues such as racism or Vietnam War issues, which was unusual for this period. His Alabama Blues recording had a song that stated:

I never will go back to Alabama, that is not the place for me (2x)

You know they killed my sister and my brother,

and the whole world let them peoples go down there free

White audiences’ interest in the blues during the 1960s increased due to the Chicago-based Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the British blues movement.

1980s to the 2000s

Since at least the 1980s, there has been a resurgence of interest in the blues among a certain part of the African-American population, particularly around Jackson, Mississippi and other deep South regions.

ften termed “soul blues” or “Southern soul“, the music at the heart of this movement was given new life by the unexpected success of two particular recordings on the Jackson-based Malaco label: Z. Z. Hill‘s Down Home Blues (1982) and Little Milton‘s The Blues is Alright (1984).

Contemporary African-American performers who work this vein of the blues include Bobby Rush, Denise LaSalle, Sir Charles Jones, Bettye LaVette, Marvin Sease, Peggy Scott-Adams, Mel Waiters, Clarence Carter, Dr. “Feelgood” Potts, O.B. Buchana, Ms. Jody, Shirley Brown, and dozens of others.

During the 1980s, blues also continued in both traditional and new forms. In 1986, the album Strong Persuader revealed Robert Cray as a major blues artist. The first Stevie Ray Vaughan recording, Texas Flood, was released in 1983, and the Texas-based guitarist exploded onto the international stage. 1989 saw a revival of John Lee Hooker‘s popularity with the album The Healer. Eric Clapton, known for his performances with the Blues Breakers and Cream, made a comeback in the 1990s with his album Unplugged, in which he played some standard blues numbers on acoustic guitar. However, beginning in the 1990s, digital multitrack recording and other technological advances and new marketing strategies that include video clip production have increased costs, and challenge the spontaneity and improvisation that are an important component of blues music.

In the 1980s and 1990s, blues publications such as Living Blues and Blues Revue began to be distributed, major cities began forming blues societies, outdoor blues festivals became more common, and more nightclubs and venues for blues emerged.

 

In the 2000s to the 2010s blues-rock gained a cultural following especially as popularity of the internet increased and artists started creating YouTube channels, forums, and Facebook pages. Many notable blues-rock musicians in this time period are Beth Hart, Warren Haynes, Gary Clark Jr., Derek Trucks, Jason Ricci and the New Blood, Susan Tedeschi, Joe Bonamassa, and Shemekia Copeland. Alternative rock groups still combined strong elements of blues in their music especially Awolnation, Cage the Elephant, The White Stripes, and The Black Keys.

Musical impact

 

 

 

Before World War II, the boundaries between blues and jazz were not so clear.

After WWII, blues had a substantial influence on jazz. Bebop classics, such as Charlie Parker‘s “Now’s the Time”, used the blues form with the pentatonic scale and blue notes.

Bebop marked a major shift in the role of jazz, from a popular style of music for dancing, to a “high-art,” less-accessible, cerebral “musician’s music”. The audience for both blues and jazz split, and the border between blues and jazz became more defined.

In popular culture

Like jazz, rock and roll, heavy metal music, hip hop music, reggae, country music, and pop music, blues has been accused of being the “devil‘s music” and of inciting violence and other poor behavior.

 

In the early 20th century, the blues was considered disreputable, especially as white audiences began listening to the blues during the 1920s.

In the early twentieth century, W.C. Handy was the first to popularize blues-influenced music among non-black Americans.

During the blues revival of the 1960s and ’70s, acoustic blues artist Taj Mahal and legendary Texas bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins wrote and performed music that figured prominently in the popularly and critically acclaimed film Sounder (1972). The film earned Mahal a Grammy nomination for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture and a BAFTA nomination.

 

Perhaps the most visible example of the blues style of music in the late 20th century came in 1980, when Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi released the film The Blues Brothers. The film drew many of the biggest living influencers of the Rhythm and blues genre together, such as Ray Charles, James Brown, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, and John Lee Hooker.

The band formed also began a successful tour under the Blues Brothers marquee. 1998 brought a sequel, Blues Brothers 2000 that, while not holding as great a critical and financial success, featured a much larger number of blues artists, such as B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Erykah Badu, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Charlie Musselwhite, Blues Traveler, Jimmie Vaughan, Jeff Baxter.

In 2003, Martin Scorsese made significant efforts to promote the blues to a larger audience. He asked several famous directors such as Clint Eastwood and Wim Wenders to participate in a series of documentary films for PBS called The Blues. He also participated in the rendition of compilations of major blues artists in a series of high-quality CDs. Blues guitarist and vocalist Keb’ Mo’ performed his blues rendition of “America, the Beautiful” in 2006 to close out the final season of the television series The West Wing.

 

 

 

 

 
   
   
 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

Charley Patton, one of the originators of the Delta blues style, playing with a pick or a bottleneck slide.

 

 

Bessie Smith, an early blues singer, was known for her powerful voice.

 

 

Muddy Waters, described as “the guiding light of the modern blues school”[84]

Otis Rush, a pioneer of the ‘West Side Sound’

 

Blues legend B.B. King with his guitar, “Lucille”.

Blues performers such as John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters continued to perform to enthusiastic audiences, inspiring new artists steeped in traditional blues, such as New York–born Taj Mahal. John Lee Hooker blended his blues style with rock elements and playing with younger white musicians, creating a musical style that can be heard on the 1971 album Endless Boogie. B. B. King‘s virtuoso guitar technique earned him the eponymous title “king of the blues”.

 

Duke Ellington straddled the big band and bebop genres. Ellington extensively used the blues form

 

The music of Taj Mahal for the 1972 movie Sounder marked a revival of interest in acoustic blues.

 

 

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2013 in review for Judge London Steverson’s Word Press Web Site

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,300 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Categories: socialNsecurity | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

And Another Right Bites The Dust.

Federal Judge Upholds Warrantless Search of Passengers’ Laptops and Other Devices.

Your rights to privacy, free speech and unreasonable searches and seizures have just taken a giant hit. A Federal District Judge in New York has just ripped the guts out of the 4th Amendment to the U S Constitution.

Warrantless searches without probable cause or even suspicion are now part of a broader pattern of aggressive government surveillance that collects information on the average presumed innocent American citizen, under lax standards, and without adequate oversight.

 

A federal judge in New York on December 31 upheld a government policy that permits officers at U.S. borders to inspect and copy the contents of travelers’ laptops and other devices without reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman dismissed a lawsuit by a university student and a group of criminal defense lawyers and press photographers challenging regulations adopted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that allow searches of passengers’ electronic equipment at the nation’s borders, including at airports and on trains.Full coverage: NSA Secrets

 

 

The plaintiffs, who were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, allege that the policy violates their rights to privacy and free speech.

Korma, a judge in the Eastern District of New York, said that the policy permits searches with or without suspicion, and cited case law that held that “searches at our borders without probable cause and without a warrant are nonetheless ‘reasonable.’”
He said that “there is about a 10 in a million chance” that a U.S. citizen or foreigner’s laptop will be searched. Two federal appeals courts have held that searches of electronic devices are routine border searches.
One federal appeals court has held that some searches may require reasonable suspicion.
One of the plaintiffs, university student Pascal Abidor, had his laptop inspected and taken by Customs and Border Protection officers while he was on an Amtrak train from Montreal to New York in May 2010. It was returned 11 days later.
Abidor could prove no injury from the laptop’s confiscation and in any case, Korman said, the officers had reasonable suspicion to inspect it.
Abidor, an Islamic studies scholar and a dual French-American citizen, had images of rallies by the militant Islamist groups Hamas and Hezbollah on his laptop.
Catherine Crump, the ACLU attorney who argued the case in July 2011, expressed disappointment at the ruling.
“Suspicionless searches of devices containing vast amounts of personal information cannot meet the standard set by the Fourth Amendment of the U s Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures,” Crump said in a statement. “Unfortunately, these searches are part of a broader pattern of aggressive government surveillance that collects information on too many innocent people, under lax standards, and without adequate oversight.”
The ACLU is considering an appeal.

(By Ellen Nakashima)

Categories: Constitutional Law | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Government Vows To Clean Up Disability Program Waste

Government tries to clean up disability program

(By Hoppy Kercheval in Hoppy’s Commentary | December 30, 2013)

(NOTE: the views expressed here are those of Hoppy Kercheval and his alone. If you want some accurate information about the Social Security Disability Determination Process, you would be wise to read socialNsecurity, the Confessions of a Social Security Judge. Available on Amazon.com. See  http://www.amazon.com/socialNsecurity-Confessions-Social-Security-Judge/dp/1449569757 )

The federal government may finally be getting a handle on the runaway Social Security Disability Insurance Program. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Social Security Administration is “tightening its grip on 1,500 administrative law judges to ensure that disability benefits are awarded consistently and to reign in fraud in the program.”

SSDI payments have risen dramatically in recent years.  A combination of the economic downtown driving more unemployed workers to the program and liberal awarding of benefits by some judges has raised SSDI rolls 20 percent in the last six years to 12 million people, with an annual budget of $135 billion.

At this rate, the disability program will have spent all its reserves by 2016, forcing either an increase in payroll taxes or a cut in benefits.

The Journal reports that the administrative law judges (ALJ) will no longer have “complete individual independence.”  Instead, they will be subject to supervision and management from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ) , the union representing the judges says it fears that will open the process to political interference, but that’s a straw man.  Many of these disability judges need someone looking over their shoulder.

The poster boy for waste, fraud and abuse in SSDI is ALJ  D.B. Daugherty of Huntington.  As a Social Security administrative law judge, Daugherty awarded benefits in virtually every case… thousands of them.  He worked closely with attorney Attorney Eric Conn, who advertised heavily in West Virginia and Kentucky, looking for potential clients.

According to the Journal, Daugherty once told a colleague, “Some of these judges act like it’s their own damn money we’re giving away.”  Daugherty resigned after the Journal first reported the story in 2011.

During the Great Depression, when Congress was first considering a federal insurance program for the disabled (the law didn’t pass until almost 20 years later), a Social Security Advisory Council actuary warned of costs beyond “anything that can be forecast.”

The fear was that well-intentioned assistance for any person with impairments of mind or body that would keep him from being gainfully employed for their rest of his life would devolve into a version of unemployment.

That warning has proven prophetic as this country’s Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program has spun out of control and is now on course to run out of money by 2016.

Sunday night, CBS 60 Minutes aired a segment entitled “Disability USA,” which probed the abuse of SSDI.  Steve Kroft reported that SSDI rolls have risen 20 percent just in the last six years to 12 million people, with a budget of $135 billion.

West Virginia, despite a small population, is a big contributor to the SSDI rolls.  The AP reports that “West Virginia leads the nation in the percentage of adults receiving government assistance for disabilities.”

A big reason for the surge in SSDI is that people who have had their claims denied are hiring law firms that specialize in winning appeals.

According to 60 Minutes, “Last year, the Social Security Administration paid a billion dollars to claimants’ lawyers out of its cash-strapped disability trust fund.  The biggest chunk–$70 million—went to Binder & Binder, the largest disability firm in the country.

Jenna Fliszar, a lawyer who used to work for Binder & Binder and represent clients from West Virginia and other states, told CBS, “I call it a legal factory because that’s all it is.  They have figured out the system and they’ve made it into a huge national firm that makes millions of dollars a year on Social Security Disability.”

In 2011, the Wall Street Journal’s Damian Paletta reported on one Huntington-based disability judge who nearly always sided with the claimant.  Judge David B. “D.B.” Daugherty awarded benefits in all but four of 1,284 cases during one fiscal year.  The national average is 60 percent approval.

A report by the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs estimates that Daugherty awarded more than $2.5 billion in benefits in the last 7 years of his career.

The Journal reported that Daugherty worked closely with lawyer Eric Conn, who advertises heavily in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, looking for potential clients. Daugherty resigned after the Journal’s reports. Conn, who continues a thriving practice in SSDI cases, was evasive in a brief interview with 60 Minutes about his relationship with the former judge.

The abuse of the SSDI system has caught the attention of the Senate Committee on Government Affairs. It held a hearing Monday and issued a report finding “a raft of improper practices by the Conn law firm to obtain disability benefits, inappropriate collusion between Mr. Conn and a Social Security Administrative Law Judge (Daugherty), and inept agency oversight which enabled the misconduct to continue for years.”

The Committee report says Daugherty’s bank records show $96,000 in cash deposits from 2003 to 2011, for which Daugherty refused to explain the origin or source of the funds.

As one of the SSDI administrative judges said, “If the American public knew what was going on in our system, half would be outraged and the other half would apply for benefits.”

Frankly, it’s predictable that Americans hit by hard economic times are tempted to latch on to any government help they can, especially when there is an alliance of lawyers, doctors and judges willing to shepherd them through the system.

In doing so, however, they are squandering taxpayer dollars and bankrupting a legitimate program.

Meanwhile, earlier this year federal authorities arrested 75 people in Puerto Rico on charges of defrauding SSDI out of millions of dollars.  A former Social Security employee teamed with complicit doctors to falsely diagnose individuals as mentally incapable of working.

But the problem is not just the outliers like Daugherty and the Puerto Rican scam.

As the Journal reports, there is widespread disparity in how judge’s rule.  “Dozens of judges awarded benefits in 90 percent of their cases, while others were much less likely to find someone unable to find work, denying benefits in more than 80 percent of their cases, data showed.”

SSDI is an essential part of the country’s safety net.  Those who are impaired, either in mind or body, and cannot work are entitled by law to support.  However, it’s important to remember that SSDI is not another option for the unemployed, nor should it be an easy target for scammers.

Politicians like to say they can save taxpayer dollars by tightening up on waste, fraud and abuse–it’s easier than proposing real budget cuts–but in the case of SSDI, they’re right about the profligate misspending.

During the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security hearing on Thursday January 16th, Rep. Tim Griffin (R- Ark.) raised questions about the disability program’s efficiency and accuracy in the wake of recent high-profile fraud cases.

Social Security Administration Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll and SSA Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin testified before the subcommittee about the SSA’s ability to root out fraud and handle employees who are implicated in a scheme.

Colvin testified that 99 percent of disability payments are made correctly. Griffin, however, noted recent disability schemes in New York, Puerto Rico and West Virginia and challenged the accuracy of Colvin’s claim.

That talking point, Griffin said, “needs to be erased” because the nature of fraud makes it impossible to know how rampant abuse of Social Security disability has become.

Griffin also questioned the SSA’s ability to reprimand and fire SSA employees who are investigated or implicated in disability schemes.

“…We all know that in order to fire someone, they do not have to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law applying (the) beyond a reasonable doubt standard,” Griffin said. “That’s not the standard to fire people.”

O’Carroll said the preference is to place an employee on leave without pay while investigating criminal activities; however, sometimes employees are left in place and monitored in an effort to identify co-conspirators.

Ms. Colvin is running the agency until the White House nominates a commissioner, and the White House has not signaled when it might move on the vacancy.

Categories: Social Security Benefits | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Red Neck to Red Beans And Rice. Downey, California in 30 Years.

English: Seal of Downey, California

English: Seal of Downey, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

              

Downey, California: A new kind of suburban idyll

 

The etched-glass door of the Downey Brewing Company still reads “Foxy’s” — all that’s left of the restaurant that occupied the space for decades, catering to a long-gone crowd.

Pub co-owner Sergio Vasquez remembers the place as “a coffee shop which served Scandinavian food.” But, he says, as the city’s demographics changed, “The population didn’t catch up with it. The only people that really attended were elderly people. They decided to shut it down. And that’s where we came in.”

Today, the five-year-old boutique brewpub buzzes with the sounds of craft beer pouring out of taps, clanking glasses and dishes, and a crowd of patrons that – like the population on the outside – is mostly Latino.

Downey Middle Class

 

(Jessica Haro and Eric Ibarra sit at a fountain on the corner of Firestone Blvd and Downey Ave on November 9th, 2013.) Photo by Mae Ryan/KPCC

 

In some ways, the pub’s story reflects the story of Downey, a onetime aerospace hub which, like nearby Whittier and a cluster of other Southern California communities, embodies the latest chapter in the evolution of Latino L.A.

 

Back in 1980, Downey was mostly non-Latino white, with Latinos representing less than 17 percent of the population.

 

It was an earlier era’s picture of the suburban idyll: wide green lawns, tidy ranch-style homes,

 

a Stonewood Shopping mall, a golf course,

 

 an iconic McDonald’s with golden arches that’s still the chain’s oldest surviving outlet.

                 (Karen and Richard Carpenter grew up in this house in Downey)

 

 

 

The Carpenters, the soft-pop singing duo, once attended Downey High School, the home of the Vikings..

 

Thousands of residents held good jobs at the sprawling Rockwell aerospace plant, which in its heyday produced Apollo capsules and the Space Shuttle.

 

But defense cuts began taking their toll in the 1990s.

 

By the time the plant closed in 1999, the city’s white suburban identity was in a state of flux, with many families moving out.

 

Left behind was a mix of retirees, languishing businesses,

 

and – for some Latinos who had been saving their pennies in more modest communities nearby – opportunity.

 

Like Vasquez, who grew up a short distance to the west in Bell, Latin American immigrants and their descendants gradually began transforming the city.

 

They started buying up the ranch-style homes and investing in businesses.

 

Today Downey is 71 percent Latino – and like their predecessors – these newer residents are mostly middle class.

 

University of Southern California sociologist Jody Vallejo says they represent a growing group of upwardly mobile (Yuppies) Latinos who have chosen to settle in Latino-majority communities that reflect their economic reality. These include Whittier, West Covina, pockets of Orange County, and Downey,

 

“Which is often referred to by Mexican Americans themselves as the Mexican American Beverly Hills,” Vallejo says.

 

Okay, so it’s not quite Beverly Hills.

 

 

Downey has a mix of more and less affluent neighborhoods, with property values generally higher on the north end of town.

 

But with a median annual household income of more than $60,000 – and close to 40 percent of its households earning $75,000 or more, according to a Cal State Long Beach analysis  – it’s earned its reputation as a middle class Latino stronghold.

 

The Latino version of the middle-class “ethnoburb” – a term typically associated with Asian American suburbs – is a phenomenon that Vallejo says began in the 1990s but took off in earnest during the last decade.

 

It coincides with slow but steady gains in educational and career attainment among Latinos as the great, post-1965 wave of immigration from Latin American settles into its second and third generations.

 

For those who succeed, moving into communities once perceived as out of reach is part of “making it,” Vallejo says.

 

“Many Latinos who are moving to places like Downey did grow up in places like South Gate or Lynwood, and really saw, or see, Downey as the next step,” Vallejo says.

 

“Growing up, you thought that’s where all the wealthy or the middle class people lived.”

 (Reeves Mansion on Paramount Boulevard, across from the Nordic Fox restaurant.)

Mexico City transplant Elsa Valdez once lived in Maywood. But for her, Downey was the always the place to go.

                                     (The Krikorian Theater)

“This is the city that we were coming to the mall, to the theaters,” Valdez said. “I see the city that it was cleaner than the city that I was living. It is also really close to my community, that is, Latin people in Huntington Park, Maywood, Cudahy and all those cities.”

Valdez bought in Downey in 1995. Now she sells real estate in the area, and says most of her clients are the children of immigrants – entrepreneurs and professionals who can afford homes costing half a million or more.

This latest wave of residents has spawned a new wave of businesses, including upscale Latino-owned ones.

 

Recently, Valdez took her mother to lunch at Porto’s, L.A.’s famous bakery begun decades ago by a Cuban immigrant family. The $14 million Downey location opened three years ago, drawing long lines of customers who line up at gleaming glass counters to order flawless guava pastries and steaming cups of café con leche brewed on on luxe equipment.

 

City officials have drawn several chain restaurants and other businesses catering to middle-class tastes, but there’s a homegrown element, too: an art gallery that opened last year and highlights the work of local artists, for example, and a soon-to-open upscale independent steakhouse whose chef has promised a signature mac and cheese spiked with chorizo.

 

“All one needs to do is look around to see the effects of gentefication,” says Vallejo,

 

using a coined term that refers to gentrification by Latinos.

 

There are still a few wants: For example, a specialty grocer. A Facebook campaign by residents to lure a much-coveted Trader Joe’s (Whittier has the nearest) has not yet done so.

Outgoing Downey mayor Mario Guerra says that in some cases, a majority Latino population can still be a hard sell for some retailers.

       (New Downey Mayor, Vernando Vasquez was sworn in December 2013)

“There’s certain businesses that look at a certain demographic, and don’t take in the reality and look at the buying power of Latinos,” Guerra says. “And it’s sad for them, because they are missing out on opportunities.”

(At Sambi’s of Tokyo for a Sister City Association Christmas Party with former Mayors Barbara Riley and Joyce Lawrence of Downey.)

 

But there are others willing to cash in on that buying power.

(The Abortion Clinic on Firestone was open six days a week. Right-to-Lifers were picketing out front)

 

 

Guerra and other city officials broke ground recently at the old Rockwell site, making way for a new development that will host theaters, restaurants and a pedestrian shopping village.

      (As we drive out of Downey on Firestone Boulevard, we wish you well.)

 

ADDENDUM:

After being sworn in, Mayor Fernando Vasquez said “Only in America can a son of immigrant parents with a 1st grade education earn a college education and become the Mayor of Downey. Thank you Downey for allowing me to serve as your 46th Mayor!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leslie Berestein-Rojas

Leslie Berestein Rojas, Immigration and Emerging Communities Reporter
  • More from Leslie Berestein Roja
    • Fernando Vasquez, center, was sworn-in as Downey mayor Tuesday. He is pictured with finance commissioners Jason Valle and Ricardo Perez.
    • VIEW ALL PICTURES

     

    Vasquez becomes Downey’s 46th mayor

    New mayor plans expanded community events in 2014, including a ‘Tour de Downey.’

    WRITTEN BY :   Christian Brown, Staff Writer

    DOWNEY – With more than 100 community leaders, city officials, and residents looking on, Councilman Fernando Vasquez was sworn-in as the 46th mayor of Downey on Tuesday night December 10.

    The 34-year-old councilman, who was elected in 2010, was administered the oath of office by his fiance’ Donna Noushkam.

    Echoing themes of economic growth, quality of life, and community engagement, Vasquez reaffirmed the city’s commitment to the Healthy Downey initiative by introducing an array of new 2014 community events, including a “Tour de Downey” bicycle race.

    “Folks, we’re going to have a big Downey bike day with a 30-mile route for experienced cyclists and a five-mile route for those who want something smaller,” he said. “But we want to promote active living and encourage people to spend time in Downtown Downey.”

    Vasquez said he will also advocate a bicycle-sharing program modeled after a similar system in Denver. The program will allow users to pick up and drop off bicycles as often as they like at designated stations throughout the downtown area using their credit cards as currency.

    The incoming mayor also said he hopes to host a FIFA World Cup viewing party for the community on June 22 when the United States soccer team faces Portugal.

    “Soccer is very popular in our community — and I see a lot of communities come together for these games,” he said. “We’re very fortunate that the U.S. plays Portugal on a Saturday at noon.”

    Vasquez’s other community-building events include an international food festival, highlighting Downey’s strong Mexican, Cuban, Greek, Lebanese, Argentine and Brazilian communities, summer sunset rooftop events, such as movie screenings, and a music and arts festival.

    “We want to rebrand the city as a regional hub for arts and culture. There’s been a huge push for the arts, it’s one of the city’s strengths,” Vasquez said. “Cities like Long Beach and Santa Monica are known for their arts communities, but in Downey, we have a lot of talent. We need to support them.”

    In addition to the new events, Vasquez said he plans to hand out Mayor’s Healthy Heart awards to local hospitals, nursing facilities, doctors, coaches, teachers, and trainers who are making a difference in the community.

    Vasquez also pledged to embrace new technologies such as solar power on public facilities, online water bill payment options, and social media for means of community engagement.

    “Managing city funds responsibly, business and economic growth, running city operations smoothly, maintaining a high quality of life, and engaging our citizens…anything proposed [by the council] has to meet these priorities,” said Vasquez. “We will continue to have a balanced budget and a healthy reserve so we can weather any storm in the future.”

    Citing it as a quality of service issue, Vasquez also strongly reaffirmed his commitment to maintain the Downey Fire Department.

    Before Vasquez’s swearing-in ceremony, outgoing mayor Mario Guerra gave a final address, highlighting the accomplishments of the Healthy Downey initiative, which motivated him to lose 84 pounds over the course of 2013.

    During his tenure, Guerra facilitated Walking Wednesdays, Walk to School Day, National Night Out, and Dia De Los Muertos, which was attended by 4,000 people.

    In 2013, Downey became an All-America City and a sister city to Roscommon County, Ireland, the birthplace of the city’s namesake Governor John Gately Downey.

    Guerra also touted the groundbreaking ceremonies for The View apartment complex, the Downey Gateway food court, and the Promenade at Downey, which will create 1,500 permanent jobs once completed.

    “I’m looking forward to working with Mayor Vasquez. When I leave, I do get a different office,” Guerra said drawing laughs. “But we’re in good hands — Fernando has a great vision.”

Categories: Adventure Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Social Security Judge Reversed By Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals

2013 at 11:25 PM Deletedelete  Overlays edit   Comments comments (0)

Social Security ALJ Reversed By Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

(CN) – A woman with multiple sclerosis who was improperly denied Social Security benefits cannot recover attorneys’ fees, the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday.

In denying benefits to Jill Campbell, an administrative law judge, or ALJ, concluded that she failed to demonstrate that she was disabled because of multiple sclerosisas of June 30, 1996, the last date she was insured.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit later concluded that this holding was in error, and Campbell moved for attorneys’ fees.

This time, a divided panel sided with Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue.

“In this case, the ALJ had to determine whether Campbell’s multiple sclerosis rendered her disabled by June 30, 1996,” the unsigned decision states. “The ALJ did not have any records from 1996 to examine. Instead, the ALJ had medical records from 1989 and 2000. The ALJ also had to consider circumstantial evidence that Campbell cared for her children and worked during that time, which justified doubts that Campbell was fully disabled. While the ALJ erred in her determination, the fact that she was trying to extrapolate what Campbell’s injury may have been in 1996 from other evidence regarding a disease which may worsen at varying rates leads this court to conclude that the ALJ’s decision was ‘substantially justified.'”

Campbell cannot collect attorneys’ fees but is entitled to recover $805 in filing costs, according to the Tuesday ruling.

Judge Kim Wardlaw dissented from the opinion, arguing that her colleagues had misinterpreted the Equal Access to Justice Act.

The dissent cites Campbell’s testimony to the ALJ her symptoms generally progressed between 1995 and 1996 with several periods where she found it difficult to get out of bed. Cambell testified that she was sometimes forced to crawl to the bathroom or scoot on her butt to descend stairs.

Wardlaw emphasized that the ALJ discounted Campbell’s testimony despite the fact that “not a single physician contradicted Campbell’s description of her disability as of her last date insured.” (Emphasis in original.)

“The commissioner was not ‘substantially justified’ in failing to apply the clearly established law that compelled the result we reached in this case,” Wardlaw added. “Nor was the government justified in defending the agency’s erroneous decision through multiple stages of litigation at taxpayer expense.”

Citing precedent, Wardlaw said that “neither Campbell nor her attorney should be made to bear the burden of the ALJ’s egregious error, and the government’s zealous defense of it. Congress enacted the EAJA to prevent precisely such outcomes

http://www.courthousenews.com/2013/11/26/astrue.pdf

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War Against Spanish Christian Churches Heats Up

 

 

Adventists Sue Over Church “Registration”

Measure mocks First Amendment, attorney says.

 

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has filed a lawsuit against the city of Las Cruces in the U.S. state of New Mexico over an ordinance church lawyers say violates religious expression and unfairly targets pastor-led faith groups, especially Latino churches.

 

Earlier this year, city officials threatened to take legal action if the Las Cruces Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church failed to comply with the requirements of the business registration ordinance.

 

Las Cruces Ordinance No. 16-131 defines a business as “any profession, trade or occupation and all and every kind of calling,” including the work of pastors, priests, rabbis, bishops, imams, and other religious leaders.

 

The ordinance ostensibly requires all pastor-led churches within city limits to register with the city, pay a registration fee, and pass a discretionary review process before gaining approval to conduct worship services or provide pastoral care. Faith groups that are lay-led rather than clergy-led are not subject to the requirements, lawyers said.

 

 

CHURCH REGISTRATION OPPOSED:  The Seventh-day Adventist Church has sued the city of Las Cruses, New Mexico, over an ordinance that requires pastor-led churches to register and pay fees. Church lawyers say the ordinance violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Texico Conference headquarters, shown here, is located in Corrales, New Mexico. [PHOTO: Sue Hinkle]

According to a complaint filed by the church in the U.S. District Court of New Mexico, there is no time frame for an approval and no avenue for appeal if the city denies an application.

 

“I’ve never seen anything like this. It blatantly goes against the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” said Todd McFarland, an associate general counsel for the Seventh-day Adventist world church.

 

Further troubling church lawyers, the ordinance requires separate registrations for each location that business is conducted. Lawyers said this stipulation could require pastors to obtain special permission before visiting sick members, providing off-site counseling, or conducting evangelism.

 

“Such religious speech and activities frequently occur in private homes, public meeting places, hospitals, and funeral homes as a result of regularly occurring life events with very little if any advance notice,” the complaint stated. “It is impossible for an applicant subject to the ordinance to provide accurate information because many pastoral activities are a response to unpredictable events.”

 

Church lawyers also said the ordinance is “impermissibly vague” because it fails to specify what actions fall under the definition of “calling,” thus requiring separate advance approval.

 

A list of exemptions to the requirements, including certain athletic officials and artists, “favor nonreligious speech over religious speech,” the complaint stated, noting that the ordinance “overturns” protections provided by Article II, section 11, of the New Mexico Constitution.

 

According to the complaint, “these protections were intended to provide religious speech with more, not less, protection than speech related to a ball game or a portrait of a family pet or other ‘art’ product.”

 

Meanwhile, Las Cruces city officials maintain that the ordinance is meant to benefit citizens.

 

“The City of Las Cruces believes that its requirements to have businesses, including churches, within city limits have a business license meets the city’s obligations to provide its citizens with fire and police protection and comply with the Constitution,” William Babington, Jr., deputy city attorney for Las Cruces, said by e-mail.

 

“The city trusts that the courts will agree with its position,” Babington added.

 

There are more than 100 churches within Las Cruces city limits, but the ordinance, Adventist lawyers said, has been applied to only a small percentage of these churches and, according to the complaint, “disparately applied to single out Hispanic and Latino churches.”

 

In June the Las Cruces Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church was first notified that it had seven days to comply with the requirements or face “court action,” according to a letter from the city’s Codes Enforcement Department. However, the Las Cruces Central Seventh-day Adventist Church, a majority non-Latino congregation, received no such notice. (The “white” or Anglo church was exempted.)

 

“This problem came to us; we didn’t go looking for it,” said McFarland, who is representing the Las Cruces Spanish Adventist Church and the Texico Conference.

The U.S. District Court of New Mexico has not yet set a trial date.

 

The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Texico Conference oversees church operations in west Texas and New Mexico, where it maintains 80 churches and supports a membership of 12,000.

(BY ELIZABETH LECHLEITNER, Adventist News Network)

Categories: Religious Liberty | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ObamaCare Rollout A Disaster

Obamacare Rollout Is A Disaster  And An Embarrassment

American presidents are used to deference and barking orders — not wiping egg from their faces.

So it was unpalatable for President Barack Obama to go on television Monday and admit glaring failures in the rollout of the health care law that bears his name.

Website snafus that have slowed sign ups to Obamacare in the three weeks since its launch are embarrassing on multiple fronts for the White House and represent a ballooning political challenge.

The Obama machine has always prided itself on efficiency and a “no drama” approach, and made great play of the governing debacles — including Hurricane Katrina — of the George W. Bush administration.

The idea that government can work is also at the center of Obama’s political creed — and is a driving motivator of his ideological clash with Republicans. So any evidence to the contrary is inconvenient to say the least.

But the faulty debut of the Healthcare.gov website is spurring questions over Obama’s competence in implementing a law he wagered his presidency to pass three years ago, but which has yet to deliver a political payoff.

The Washington Post reported late Monday that in a test a few days days before the web site was to be launched, the system crashed in a simulation in which just a few hundred people tried to sign on simultaneously.

The web site went live October 1 anyway, and seized up shortly after midnight as about 2,000 users tried to complete the first step for buying health care insurance, the Post said. It quoted two people familiar with the project.

The embarrassment is even more acute since Obama built his career on exploiting the power of the Internet to build a political movement and woo Americans over the heads of the news media.

The Obamacare storm was building for days, but was obscured by the furor over a just avoided debt default and a government shutdown. The White House however sensed the row was about to break through, and over the weekend made clear Obama would address the website glitches head on.

“There’s no sugarcoating it,” the president said, bemoaning the website’s faults.

“I think it’s fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that than I am.”

But his appearance on a crisp fall day in the White House Rose Garden was less a mea culpa than a sales job.

“The product is good,” Obama insisted, apparently worried that bad reviews of the website would sour Americans even further on Obamacare — which polls show has a poor image.

The botched rollout, which Obama described as being plagued by “kinks“, offered an opening to Republicans stung by coming off second best in the shutdown drama.

House Speaker John Boehner, who has long blasted Obamacare as a “train wreck” wove a wider parable of supposed failures encompassing the whole of Obamacare, which targets 40 million Americans without health insurance.

“What the president offered today was little more than self-congratulation,” Boehner said.

“Either the president doesn’t grasp the scale of the law’s failures or he doesn’t believe Americans deserve straight answers.”

Obama however argued the law is “more than a website” and noted popular provisions including the prohibition on insurance firms denying coverage to someone with a pre-existing health condition.

The Department of Health and Human Services has ordered a “surge” of technology experts to repair the website and says Americans can also register by phone.

But it still will not say how many people have secured insurance through the new law.

How badly Obama and his signature domestic achievement are damaged may depend on how quickly the fixes work.

If problems linger, Obama will face mounting calls to delay the mandate for all Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine equivalent to one percent of their income. This is due to come into force next year.

There is also a growing drumbeat for the head of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius — though White House aides privately say her job is safe, blaming contractors, not administration officials, for the problems.

Top aides to Obama have long believed that once more Americans see the results of Obamacare in action, the law would become more popular. But such hopes may not survive days of stories over its botched debut.

“Every day that there are problems with the Obamacare website is going to be a day where the Republicans say this is Obamacare writ large,” said Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire.

“If it is something that lingers for months that is a big problem. It will feed into a public perception that it won’t work.”

To work, Obamacare must attract droves of healthy, young people — who typically are the most loath to buy health insurance — to sign up to subsidize the risk posed by older, sicker, consumers. So anything that deters them from taking the plunge could be disastrous for the law.

With that in mind, and given the centrality of Obamacare to the president’s political identity, many experts are baffled at the mess.

“That they didn’t seem to have this better prepared for the rollout on October 1 goes beyond me being surprised,” said Daniel Sledge, a professor and health care specialist at the University of Texas.

(Business Insider, Collinson, S., Oct. 22, 2013)

“A broken website imperils the largest expansion of the American safety net since the Great Society.

“More than two weeks into the disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov, the website created by President Barack Obama’s health care reform law still isn’t working right….But the administration won’t disclose exactly what’s wrong with the health insurance exchange website, or when consumers can expect to see the promise of convenient, one-stop shopping for health benefits and financial assistance fulfilled.”

That’s not from some right-wing website. It’s the Huffington Post, whose home page is usually plastered with pro-administration headlines.

I think we have to stop using the word “glitches” to describe what’s going on. This is far more serious than too many people at the outset crashing the site.

This is a meltdown of the first order that really does threaten the president’s signature priority. If the problems are ironed out and millions sign up for the federal exchanges, this period will just be an unpleasant interlude. But at this point, administration officials don’t seem to have a handle on the magnitude of the debacle.

The president used the G-word, telling KCCI-TV in Des Moines that the rollout has had “way more glitches than I think are acceptable.” But it’s much deeper than that. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

“Insurers say the federal health-care marketplace is generating flawed data that is straining their ability to handle even the trickle of enrollees who have gotten through so far, in a sign that technological problems extend further than the website traffic and software issues already identified.

“Emerging errors include duplicate enrollments, spouses reported as children, missing data fields and suspect eligibility determinations, say executives at more than a dozen health plans. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska said it had to hire temporary workers to contact new customers directly to resolve inaccuracies in submissions. Medical Mutual of Ohio said one customer had successfully signed up for three of its plans.”

Robert Gibbs nailed it when he said on MSNBC that this was a huge embarrassment and that some people should be fired. When Gibbs was hired as a network commentator, I wondered whether he would merely be a flack for his former boss.

So a tip of the hat to the former White House press secretary. Other liberals at MSNBC, such as the Washington Post’s Gene Robinson, are also saying the rollout is a mess.

Many conservatives are rooting for ObamaCare to fail. Some states with GOP governors are not cooperating with the program. But what has happened since the rollout falls squarely in the category of self-inflicted wound—and may be accomplishing what Ted Cruz could not.

Sebelius Siblings

When your job is secure, it seems to me, you don’t go trotting out your brother and sister to defend you.

In the wake of the disastrous ObamaCare rollout, I don’t know how the siblings of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius came to be quoted by the New York Times.

But with the White House proclaiming “full confidence” in her, their response to calls for her to step down suggested she was taking no chances:

“In an interview, Ms. Sebelius’s older brother, Donald D. Gilligan, said, ‘I don’t think you resign in the middle of a fight…The fact that people are calling for her head does not surprise her or alarm her particularly.’…

“The secretary’s sister, Ellen M. Gilligan, said, ‘To my knowledge, she is not going to resign,’ despite the ‘wishful thinking’ of some Republicans.”

Well, the Sebelius family is certainly behind her.

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A 9/11 Tribute To An American Hero

English: Melodie and Laurel Homer, widow and d...

English: Melodie and Laurel Homer, widow and daughter of LeRoy Wilton Homer Jr, First Officer of W:United Airlines Flight 93. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

English: LeRoy Homer Jr. as an Air Force Acade...

English: LeRoy Homer Jr. as an Air Force Academy cadet. First Officer of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville, PA on September 11, 2001. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A True American Hero and 9/11 Patriot is Captain LeRoy Homer,

the pilot of UA-93. On September 11, 2001, CAPT Homer was flying with Captain

Jason Dahl on United Flight 93. Based on information from several

sources that day, we know LeRoy and Jason were the first to fight

against the terrorist threat to the airplane.

Like Crispus Attucks, the first person shot dead by British redcoats during the Boston Massacre,

in the Revolutionary War, CAPT Homer was among the first Americans to

fight against jihad and Al Qaeda on 9/11/2001. They are both American

heroes. They were American first, and “Black” second.

CAPT Homer has received many

awards and citations posthumously, for his actions on Flight 93,

including the Congress Of Racial Equality – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Award, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference – Drum Major for

Justice Award and the Westchester County Trailblazer Award.

Not much has been said in the mainstream media about LeRoy W. Homer Jr..

At

an early age, LeRoy W. Homer Jr knew that he wanted to be a pilot. As a

child, LeRoy assembled model airplanes, collected aviation memorabilia

and read books on aviation. LeRoy was 15 years old when he started

flight instruction in the Cessna 152. Working part-time jobs after

school to pay for flying lessons, he completed his first solo at 16

years old, and obtained his private pilot’s certificate in 1983.

In the fall of 1983, LeRoy entered the Air Force Academy, and graduated with the Class of 1987,

31st Squadron. After completing pilot training in 1988, he was assigned

to McGuire AFB in New Jersey, flying the C-141B Starlifter. While on

active duty, LeRoy served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and later

supported operations in Somalia. He received many commendations, awards

and medals during his military career. In 1993, he was named the 21st

Air Force Aircrew Instructor of the Year. LeRoy achieved the rank of

Captain before his honorable discharge from active duty in 1995.

LeRoy

continued his military career as a reservist, initially as an

instructor pilot with the 356th Airlift Squadron at Wright Patterson

AFB, Ohio, then subsequently as an Academy Liaison Officer, recruiting

potential candidates for both the Air Force Academy and the Air Force

Reserve Officer Training Corps. During his time with the Reserves, he

achieved the rank of Major.

LeRoy continued his flying career by joining United Airlines in May 1995.

His first assignment was Second Officer on the B727. He then upgraded

to First Officer on the B757/767 in 1996, where he remained until

September 11, 2001.

September 11, 2001, was a

defining moment in American history. On that terrible day, our Nation

saw the face of evil as 19 men barbarously attacked us and wantonly

murdered people of many races, nationalities, and creeds. On Patriot

Day, we remember the innocent victims, and we pay tribute to the valiant

firefighters, police officers, emergency personnel, and ordinary

citizens who risked their lives so others might live.

After the

attacks on 9/11, America resolved that we would go on the offense

against our enemies, and we would not distinguish between the terrorists

and those who harbor and support them. All Americans honor the selfless

men and women of our Armed Forces, the dedicated members of our public

safety, law enforcement, and intelligence communities, and the thousands

of others who work hard each day to protect our country, secure our

liberty, and prevent future attacks.

The spirit of our people is the source of America’s strength, and 6 years ago, Americans came to the aid of neighbors in need. On Patriot Day, we pray for those who died and for their families. We

volunteer to help others and demonstrate the continuing compassion of

our citizens. On this solemn occasion, we rededicate ourselves to laying

the foundation of peace with confidence in our mission and our free way

of life.

By a joint resolution approved December 18, 2001

(Public Law 107-89), the Congress has designated September 11 of each

year as “Patriot Day.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 11, 2007, as Patriot Day.

I call upon the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of

Puerto Rico, as well as appropriate officials of all units of

government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff on Patriot

Day. I also call upon the people of the United States to observe Patriot

Day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and remembrance services,

to display the flag at half-staff from their homes on that day, and to

observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. eastern daylight time

to honor the innocent Americans and people from around the world who

lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11,

2001.

While

the loss of life on 9/11 and subsequent heartache was tremendous, we

can be thankful that these misguided individuals were unsuccessful. They

brought down the World Trade Center, but not the White House. Captain

LeRoy Homer would rather die than fly his UA-93 jumbo jet into the White

House. It is because of Captain LeRoy Homer and others that the White

House is still standing today. There is no “Ground Zero” in Washington,

DC because of Captain LeRoy Homer.

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GW Grad Court-martialed For Political Incorrectness

George Washington University

George Washington University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although William Lendrum “Billy” Mitchell, a GW graduate, is now considered to have paved the runway for the establishment of the nation’s Air Force, it wasn’t before he was first convicted of insubordination and resigned from the military.

 

 

The Father of the Air Force, Brigadier General Billy Mitchell

William Lendrum "Billy" Mitchell, 1899 GW Graduate

William Lendrum “Billy” Mitchell, 1899 GW Graduate. (Photo Courtesy University Archives.)

 

 

The George Washington University (GW)  graduate was so certain of the necessity of air power to ensure national security and military dominance that he accused military leadership of incompetence in 1925. He had already fallen out of favor with many military leaders after he gave a series of reports the year before that asserted the superiority of air power—an idea the Navy didn’t like—and stated his bold and ultimately accurate prediction that Japan would launch a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and U.S. bases in the Philippines.

 

 

 

(His reports were compiled and published as the book Winged Defense: The Development and Possibilities of Modern Air Power—Economic and Military).

His belief in air power began after he enlisted to fight in the Spanish-American War in 1898 as a GW junior (along with several other GW volunteers).

 

 

After the United States declared war on Germany in 1917, Mr. Mitchell went to France to set up an office for the Aviation Section of the Army Signal Corps, the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force. He was elevated to the temporary rank of brigadier general while commanding allied forces in the Battle of San Mihiel in 1918. During that successful offensive, Mr. Mitchell became the first American airman to fly over German lines.

Mr. Mitchell amplified his call for military leaders to focus their attention on air power when he returned to the United States. To prove some of his theories, he set up and carried out the now famous “airplane versus battleship” tests from 1921 to 1923 in which he sunk stationary German ships from Martin MB-2 bomber airplanes. Congress awarded Mr. Mitchell a Special Congressional Medal of Honor after his death in 1936.

Mr. Mitchell completed the requirements for his GW degree in 1919 and was awarded a degree that year “as of the Class of 1899.” Mitchell Hall on the Foggy Bottom Campus is named for him.

You can find a sculpture of Mr. Mitchell in the Pre-1920 Aviation area of the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.

(By Bergis Jules)

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