Thursday, May 17, 2007

Put your money where your mouth is

For all his faults, props to Sen. McCain for being the only GOP front-runner to universally condemn torture (aka "enhanced interrogation") during the most recent debate. Man of faith Mitt Romney, on the other hand, said he'd like to double the size of Guantanamo, and Rudy G. can't wait to give Agent Jack Bauer the green light.

It irks me to listen to these blow-hard posers. While Romney was out proselytizing on behalf of his "religion" and getting a draft deferment to do so, McCain was actually being tortured in North Vietnam. And let's not forget that America's Baby-boomer Mayor also opted out of his generation's war with a deferment. Mitt and Rudy like to talk tough about defending America, valor, and sacrifice, but when it was their turn to step up, they chose not to. Meanwhile, the one candidate who has been tortured says it's not such a good idea.

Since they haven't yet popped their cherries, all GOP candidates who have endorsed "enhanced interrogation" should participate in the same - televised, hopefully, so voters can see firsthand how hard they are. I can't wait to see Mike Huckabee beating a 'raqi goat-herder to the brink of organ failure, or Duncan Hunter showing off his skills by water-boarding Ron Paul. It'll be ratings dynamite for FOX, moderated by Brit Hume. Republicans - don't just tell us how you'll torture our enemies, show us.

Monday, May 14, 2007

McCain on MTP

Click to watch Senator McCain's latest on MTP - entertaining and aggravating. Since the Senator is a veteran I would naturally be inclined to support him, but I just can't do it. He scares me. He's not thinking rationally about the Iraq mess. It's become an honor thing for him - a good sense for a warrior to possess, but not the strategos. Sorry Senator, can't endorse you.

Choice transcript quotes:
MR. RUSSERT: But the duly elected people's bodies, the U.S. Congress and the Iraqi parliament, say they want a troop withdrawal. That's more than a poll. Isn't that the voice of the people?

SEN. McCAIN: Well, the--as far as the Iraqi parliament is concerned, the Iraqi government obviously doesn't feel that way, their--the representatives in their government. Second of all, there is some, a certain amount of domestic political calculations involved there in what the Iraqi, quote, "parliament" said. The Iraqi parliament has their ability to, to voice their views, and I respect them. And I, as I say, I--I'll repeat again, I understand how democracies work. I saw it in Vietnam. I saw it in Vietnam. And I saw it in Vietnam, the predictions, that everything would be a worker's paradise in, in Vietnam if we left. And thousands were executed and millions went to re-education camps. So I, I believe that, that the consequences of failure, and particularly sitting on the large reserves of oil they have, particularly considering the influence of al-Qaeda is concerned, you will see enormous destabilization in the region, and that's my duty. That's my obligation. It's not my privilege. And political calculations should not enter into any information or position that I take on, on a, on an issue of national security.
Notice he mocks the Iraqi parliament by calling them the, "'quote,' parliament." As if to imply they have no real power. That they're a sham, a puppet parliament. Does the Senator want to be the puppet master? Dictatorial ambitions? Naww, couldn't be...

And "dammit Walter, not everything is about Vietnam, man."

McCain, self-described, "student of history," on American and Iraqi History:
It took us about 100 and some years before we had a bloody civil war to decide the future of our country. This is a fledgling democracy. I'm not, I'm not making excuses for it, but they have not been in this business before. And yet that does not change the fact that, in my view, unless they act, it could jeopardize what is already in jeopardy.

It's news to him:
MR. RUSSERT: Jim Miklaszewski, our Pentagon correspondent, reports that he's being told by senior military officials that, come April, we do not have the troops to continue to send to Iraq in the rotation that we've been--that's been ongoing. We simply don't have them.

SEN. McCAIN: Come next April.

MR. RUSSERT: That's correct.

Friday, May 11, 2007

"Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007"

Especially if you're a vet, drop by the junior Senator from Virginia's site and commend his legislation. Proud to say that my Senator, Claire McCaskill, is one of the co-sponsors. Let your own senator hear it, if he or she is not. Finals are over. Summer classes begin on Monday. Enjoying a break in the meantime.

Section 1: Short title - "Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007."

Section 2: Educational Assistance for Members of the Armed Forces Who Serve After September 11, 2001. This section adds a new Chapter 33 (entitled "Post 9/11 Educational Assistance") to Title 38 of the U.S. Code, with the following new sections:

Section 3301: Definitions. This section provides definitions of key terms.

Section 3311: Educational assistance for service in the Armed Forces after September 11, 2001 - entitlement. This section prescribes multiple categories of veterans entitled to educational benefits under this Act. In general, to qualify, veterans must have served at least two years of active duty, with at least some period of active duty time served beginning on or after September 11, 2001.

Section 3312: Educational assistance - duration. Veterans are entitled to receive educational assistance for a period of time that is linked to their entitlement, as measured by Section 3311 above. In general, veterans may not receive assistance for more than a total of 36 months, which equals 4 academic years.

Section 3313: Educational assistance - payment and amount. In general, veterans may receive monetary assistance to pursue an approved program of education as follows: (i) payments covering the established charges of the program, (ii) room and board, and (iii) a monthly stipend of $1,000. [Note that these are basically the same benefits paid to World War II veterans.] This Section prescribes the timing of such payments and revised payment guidelines related to less-than-half-time education, apprenticeships, on-the-job-training, correspondence school, and flight training.

Section 3314: Tutorial assistance. Veterans may receive additional payment for tutorial assistance, not to exceed $100/month, for a maximum of 12 months, or until a maximum of $1,200 is used.

Section 3315: Licensure and certification tests. Veterans may receive payment for one licensing or certification test, not to exceed the lesser of $2,000 or the test fee.

Section 3321: Time limitation for use of and eligibility for entitlement. Veterans have 15 years (as measured under the provisions of this Section) to use their educational entitlement.

Section 3322: Bar to duplication of educational assistance benefits. Veterans who receive educational benefits under this Act may not receive concurrent assistance under another similar program; instead, veterans must elect one program over another.

Section 3323: Administration. This Section: (i) gives guidance on interpreting operative terms, and (ii) instructs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide information to veterans regarding this Act's educational benefits, and to prescribe regulations to carry out this Act.

Section 3324: Allocation of administration and costs. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall administer this program, and payments shall be made from funds made available to the Department of Veterans Affairs for the payment of readjustment benefits. This Section also prescribes ways for veterans to choose to elect into this Act's program from the existing Montgomery G.I. Bill program.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Vets find GI Bill fails College-tuition Test


The Associated Press

FAIRFAX, Va. — Marc Edgerly and his father, Carl, both joined the Army as young men, served during wartime and eventually decided that college, not a full-time military career, was what they wanted.

But the costs they shouldered for college are dramatically different.

The GI Bill covered all of Carl Edgerly's college expenses in the mid-1970s. His son, however, expects that even with the maximum $1,075 in monthly GI Bill benefits, he will be saddled with $50,000 in student loans when he graduates from George Mason University.

"The total amount of the GI Bill comes nowhere close to what I actually need for college," said Edgerly, 26, who is in his second year at the school outside Washington, D.C. "After five years of college, it is not going to work."

The federal program that once covered nearly the entire cost of a veteran's college expenses continues to fall further behind the soaring price of higher education. Despite several attempts by Congress to boost benefits in past decades, the gap has grown so large that many veterans are forced to take out sizable student loans.

The current maximum GI Bill amount for college for a veteran who served on active duty is roughly $38,700. For many students, that is not nearly enough to pay for tuition, room, board and books.

And only four years of school are covered, leaving veterans on their own if they take longer to graduate.

The average cost of one year's tuition, room and board at four-year public institutions in 2006-07 was $12,796, according to the College Board. For private schools, the one-year cost was $30,367.

Tuition and fees at all schools have risen 35 percent in the past five years, while the highest GI Bill monthly payout has increased only 20 percent since 2002.

Congress has boosted the benefit several times since its inception — the last a $9 billion, 10-year increase passed in 2001 that even then was criticized as too small to keep up with soaring costs.

Some lawmakers want to try again. Legislation in the House and Senate would make National Guard and Reserve troops — who are relied on heavily in Iraq and Afghanistan — eligible for the same GI Bill payments as active-duty personnel.

Currently, Guard members and reservists receive a much lower educational benefit.

A bill by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., a former Marine and Navy secretary, would pay the entire tuition, room and board of veterans and provide them with a monthly stipend of $1,000.

The expanded benefit would be available to all members of the military who served after Sept. 11, 2001.

A Webb spokeswoman said there is no estimate yet of how much the expanded benefit would cost.

Webb touted the bill Wednesday in the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, saying it would help boost recruiting, ease the transition of returning soldiers and raise the quality of life for veterans.

The legislation is backed by several veterans groups, such as the American Legion.

The Heat's On is running three ads featuring retired generals, two of whom served in Iraq. You don't get to be a general officer by being an anti-American defeatist, so I'm waiting to see how Dick Cheney and his mindless army of Christo-fascists are going to smear these guys. Watch the ad if you haven't already.

Now we learn the Iraqi Parliament will take a two month summer vacation. The parliament has the power to effect national reconciliation, and every day of their existence is bought with the valor and blood of our troops. It's clear they either do not want or do not appreciate this sacrifice. Either way, if we don't take the hint and leave them to sort this mess out on their own, we're the suckers.

11 Repubs have a "candid" meeting with GW. Bipartisan bills introducing "benchmarks." All I know is that surging=more death. Once more unto the breach...I predict the endgame's beginning late this summer.

I bitch about finals while former comrades in arms are stuck for the second time in the worst place to be in the world. And it's almost summer - when all the air-conditionless, electricity-deprived Iraqis go apeshit. But the two-timers I know all re-enlisted, and wouldn't want you to feel too sorry for them. This dude, however, is about to go back for the second time, under stop-loss. I went once under stop-loss, but to be forced back for a second tour of combat is pretty fubar. Hopefully it won't be too long before they can all come home and enjoy the peacetime military life again. And eventually the civilian.

Speaking of a civilian: instead of "Free Paris!" or "Jail Paris!" how about "Enlist Paris!" This girl obviously needs some discipline, and Islamo-fascists love a loose, blond babe - maybe she could distract them while we head to the door with the loot.