4 vehicles shot on I-10 in Phoenix
Hat Tip: BB
Hat Tip: BB
By: Denise Simon
Update: Born in Kuwait, naturalized citizen. Was living in Hixson, TN at the time of the murders. His vehicle had a large cache of small arms.
He apparently worked for the City of Chattanooga as an unarmed security officer in the Stormwater Management Division and wrote a letter to President to GW Bush and that link is here.
Muhammad Youssef Abdulzeez from Arizona where public records show Abdulzeez is approximately 24 years old and a native of Phoenix. Abdulzeez has no prior criminal record, except a 2013 traffic violation.
Rest in Peace
Here’s the new Pentagon statement on the killing of four Marines in Chattanooga:
“We can confirm that four DoD servicemembers were tragically killed and one wounded in two separate shootings in Chattanooga, Tennessee today. The shootings took place at a Network Operations Support Center operated by the U.S. Navy and at an armed forces recruiting center. Names of the deceased will be released following next of kin notification. We are working with local and federal authorities. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.”
The killer was from Phoenix and immediately the FBI and law enforcement in Chattanooga called this an act of domestic terror.
For additional photos of the shooter who is alleged to have had contact with the Garland, Texas shooters, click here.
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A gunman unleashed a barrage of gunfire at two military facilities Thursday in Tennessee, killing at least four Marines and wounding a soldier and a police officer, officials told CBS News. The suspect also was killed.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said five people died in all, including the gunman. Two law enforcement sources told CBS News that the shooting suspect was identified as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
Five people are dead, including the gunman, and three injured in two shootings at military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee
U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said officials were treating the attacks as an “act of domestic terrorism,” though FBI Special Agent in Charge Ed Reinhold said authorities were still investigating a motive.
Officials told CBS News correspondent David Marin that four U.S. Marines were among the dead and another was injured. The U.S. Marines released a statement saying that the injured Marine was a recruiter who treated and released after sustaining a wound to the leg.
A police officer also was shot in the ankle and is expected to be ok.
“Lives have been lost from some faithful people who have been serving our country, and I think I join all Tennesseans in being both sickened and saddened by this,” Gov. Bill Haslam said.
A facility 7 miles away on Old Lee Highway also was attacked. Brian Lepley, a spokesman with the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Kentucky, said his recruiters there were told by law enforcement that the shooter was in a car, stopped in front of the facility, shot at the building and drove off.
The Army recruiters at the facility told Lepley they were not hurt and had evacuated; Lepley said he had no information about recruiters for the other branches at the facility.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Dodge, 36, is the center leader for U.S. Army recruiting at the facility on Old Lee Highway. He said four Army personnel were in the office at the time. He said the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and National Guard all have their own offices right next to each other. Around 10:30 or 10:45 a.m., Dodge and the others heard a gunshot, “which kind of sparked our attention,” he said.
“Shortly after that, just a few seconds, the shooter began shooting more rounds. We realized it was an actual shooting,” he said. They then got on the ground and barricaded themselves in a safe place. Dodge estimated there were 30 to 50 shots fired.
He did not see the shooter or a vehicle.
The Army recruiting office was not damaged, but doors and glass were damaged at the neighboring Air Force, Navy and Marine offices.
Reinhold said all the dead were killed at the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center Chattanooga. It sits between Amnicola Highway and a pathway that runs through Tennessee RiverPark, a popular park at a bend in the Tennessee River northeast of downtown Chattanooga. It’s in a light industrial area that includes a Coca-Cola bottling plant and Binswanger Glass.
The two entrances to the fenced facility have unmanned gates and concrete barriers that require approaching cars to slow down to drive around them.
Marilyn Hutcheson, who works at Binswanger Glass just across the street, said she heard a barrage of gunfire 11 a.m.
“I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many,” she said. “It was rapid fire, like pow pow pow pow pow, so quickly. The next thing I knew, there were police cars coming from every direction.”
She ran inside, where she remained locked down with other employees and a customer. The gunfire continued with occasional bursts she estimated for 20 minutes.
“We’re apprehensive,” Hutcheson said. “Not knowing what transpired, if it was a grievance or terroristic related, we just don’t know.”
They’ve seen dozens of emergency vehicles rush by: bomb teams, SWAT teams, and state, local and federal authorities.
The Armed Forces Career Center on Lee Highway sits in a short strip between a Cricket Wireless and an Italian restaurant with no apparent additional security.
Near the other shooting location on Lee Highway, Nicholas Donohue heard a blast of gunshots while working at Desktop Solutions. But he had music playing and wasn’t quite sure what the noise had been. He turned off the music and seconds later, a second blast thundered. He took shelter in a back room.
“Even though it knew it was most likely gunfire I heard, you also don’t want to believe it’s happening in the moment,” he said. “Since I didn’t see anything, I couldn’t be sure.”
By the time he emerged, police were cordoning off the area.
Hat Tip: BB
TRUMP APPEAL: Donald’s A Bad Ass And A Great Addition To The GOP Mix
Trump vows to press Ford to cancel Mexican plant
Donald Trump just gave an amazingly surreal speech in Las Vegas
Bill Clinton Tells Jeb Bush, “This Trump Thing Will Be Taken Care Of.”
Donald Trump Speaks In Arizona – The “Silent Majority” Show Up….
By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton
Wow, we are seriously screwed up as a nation. How quickly everyone has forgotten the massive terrorist attack on 9/11 that took almost 3,000 lives. It touched all of us. And the guys behind it were evil Islamists, plain and simple. The primary motive behind the protest by the people in Phoenix yesterday was to show that free speech still matters in this country and we won’t be cowed or stripped of our rights by thugs, who wear religion as a cloak of justification. However, you wouldn’t know that by watching the media. Even Fox News called it an anti-Muslim protest and took pains to make the Americans who held it look more like terrorists than those who are spawning and teaching those who are attacking and murdering us. In a wholesale inversion of truth, everything is being turned upside down and inside out.
I would really like to know how people can ask how drawing cartoons crosses the line on free speech. There is no line on free speech and to ask this question shows no knowledge of the Constitution or a belief in our freedoms. Perhaps on the day that those on the Left and (redundantly) in the Media can restrain themselves from pathologically lying about their own motives, their own actions and about their observations of real events, perhaps on that day we can talk about “lines” in free speech. No investigation has been conducted concerning the two Jihadists that went to this mosque and then attacked Pamela Geller and others in Garland, Texas. Yet those who protest these monsters and stand up for our rights are massively dissed by a megalomaniacal media and puerile political pundits at every turn. Pamela Geller is absolutely right on this once again. It seems today that it is shrugged at when terrorists kill people on American soil — but speak out against Islam and you are pilloried and defamed. This is Shariah Law in play.
I share the frustration of these people holding the protest in Phoenix and I am joined by millions of others. The mosque in Phoenix produces terrorists as pointed out earlier. Here are some facts from Pamela Geller:
So, excuse me if I wonder aloud about what goes on in that mosque and the fact that it seems lying to the public by their representatives is par for the course. Typical taqiyya. I have grown sick to death of our so-called leaders protecting the enemies within this country… giving Islamists and communists full freedom to destroy us from within and without, while trying to strip the majority of Americans of their Constitutional rights. Americans are actually beginning to stand up and say that this is enough of this crap and who do our media and leaders come down on? Why Christians and patriots of course… not the breeding grounds and purveyors of murder.
Notice in the photos above that the police have positioned themselves between the two groups of protesters. No full-cover body armor, no riot gear, no phalanx formation, just a loose, relaxed cordon of officers placed where they could keep the cadre of squishmongers from doing anything stupid against free speech advocates well prepared to defend themselves. Why do those officers feel safe? Because they know that, in the event of violence, the armed protesters would protect them. This isn’t Baltimore, after all.
Jon Ritzheimer, a Marine for 10 years, organized the event. Now, after what he hoped would be a ‘peaceful protest‘ to make his point on free speech, he has had to take his family out of state and put them into hiding because of ISIS threats against them. Ritzheimer’s home address had been published and his wife and children threatened. But the media is still blaming this man for exercising his Constitutional rights and giving a pass to the Islamic State. Tell me that isn’t messed up. Fox News and the rest of the media is supporting the bullies out there — your basic “give the bully what he wants and you won’t get hurt” (standard pre-2001 thinking regarding hijackers) — I guess they are ‘pro-bully’ now. There’s a term that more closely describes what they are – treasonous cowards.
“I’m having to sell my house. My family is going into hiding,” an armed Ritzheimer, flanked by burly men wearing “F— Islam!” T-shirts, told reporters at the rally. “They’re calling for lone wolves to behead me. That’s terrorism right here in America.”
Tyranny is alive and well in the US now on many, many fronts. 500 protesters showed up in Phoenix… 250 on each side. But the side that is being overwhelmingly castigated are the patriots protesting in defense of free speech. And the fact that many are ex-military and armed simply incensed the Left.
So, where were the protests screaming “Love not hate!” and “Stop the hate!” when a figure of Jesus was immersed in urine? Where was the outcry in the streets and press when the Virgin Mary was encrusted in elephant dung? But protest in front of a mosque and draw Mohammad cartoons and they are all over you, screaming that you are a bigot and to shut up and know your place. I’m sick of it. We are supposed to love our enemies, but I don’t think that extends to them beheading, crucifying, raping and murdering us. Sorry – pastors and imams can hug all they want… I keep seeing that little boy at the Boston Marathon blown to bits. I can’t get out of my mind the officers and firefighters who died on 9/11 or the people who went down in a plane in a field in Pennsylvania. But the Left would rather bow and lick the boots of our enemies.
Literally vociferously hating Christians and Christianity, aggressively inciting violence against them and against western culture … that’s “protected speech.” Objecting to the overtly political jihad factory facilitating murder and working violently to abridge the freedom to voice that objection … well, telling murderers to stop murdering is “hate speech” don’tcha know. That guy with the “Love Not Hate” sign below? He wasn’t standing outside the mosque on the day after Garland. Why do you imagine that might be? Is it possible his message might have been “misconstrued” by the peace-loving Muslims therein?
Steven Crowder gets it right and I agree with him 100%:
The Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, where the event will take place, is where the two dead gunmen who attacked the Garland event previously worshiped.
Jackass move? Maybe. But this is what freedom of speech means. This is absolutely protected, and it is undeniably courageous to stand up against the tyranny of violent threats and actions and say “this will not stand.” Tomorrow, we will see what happens when the event takes place. We pray for safety. But we demand success. It is our right as Americans.
I will personally host any of these bikers on my program, if they change their name to “Sons of Muhammad” or “Allah’s Angels.”
That’s not a joke.
The Daily Mail wouldn’t even show pictures of drawings of Mohammad. They called the Leftists and Muslims protesting against the others a ‘Love Rally.’ I think I may barf over that one. It was a peaceful protest, but the Daily Mail called it an ugly conflict. You know what’s ugly? Thousands dying in the Twin Towers, children blown up at a marathon and Jihadists trying to kill those attending a Draw Mohammad contest in Texas. That’s ugly, you asshats. Even uglier are the abattoirs of the Middle East, literally running with the blood of the innocent and the civilized, butchered by Muslim savages. You know, PEACEFUL jihad.
Here’s one telling Tweet for ya:
ISIS member, Abu Hussain Al Brittani also mocked and threatened Ritzheimer in one tweet after the man urged attendees to bring their guns to the event, saying; ‘Whats your little handguns going to do against an IED that sprays 3000+ ball bearings faster than the speed of sound? #Phoenix #AZ’
More from Ritzheimer:
Ritzheimer then said the event would stay peaceful as long as none of those worshiping tried to incite violence.
No one from the mosque was seen at the protest.
‘Come here, come to your house of worship and worship peacefully,’ Ritzheimer said when asked about their right to freedom of religion.
‘The second it rolls over into the streets and you start trying to oppress American citizens that’s when patriots like myself take a stand and say “Nuh-uh.”
‘Enough is enough. I have two beautiful daughters and I’m not gonna let them be raised in a society like that.’
He continued by saying; ‘We have to draw the line. If we don’t, what’s next? What, are they gonna start telling us what not to do next?
Are they gonna start attacking the women for showing their hair? Showing their ankles? Or their other ridiculous stuff?’
Americans have had enough of being afraid… of being pushed around by a political ideology that is anti-Christian, anti-freedom, anti-peace, anti-Constitution and anti-American. So, the Daily Mail and the rest of the sycophant, groveling media can just stuff it.
The standoff was tense, no doubt about it, with cops dividing the two sides as much as they could. In the name of tolerance, we are being smothered in tyranny. There are crackpots on both sides, but that does not diminish the fact that we are being told we are bigots for standing up to what amounts to eradication of our rights here in America and the acceptance of terrorism on American soil. The media goes out of their way to make those on the right look like blithering, drooling idiots and those on the Left as peace-loving, inclusive saints. It’s enough to drive you bonkers.
Let’s have a look at who was on the opposing side. An issue that is getting almost no press.
Occupy Phoenix was there:
Posted by #OccupyPhoenix on Friday, May 29, 2015
The Campaign to Take On Hate, which works to challenge misconceptions of Muslims and Arab Americans, organized a Twitter campaign as well. The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, an organization that builds bridges between Muslim and Jewish women, supported the Twitter campaign. CAIR was also there en force.
Partners of The Campaign to Take On Hate include:
In the midst of all the media hoopla, right on cue, the message is being obfuscated. This is about free speech and the Constitution. Muslims have a right to practice their religion freely, but they don’t have a right to suppress our Constitutional rights. Mosques here in America are producing terrorists – people who murder in the name of Allah. They can scream about Christians all they want, but the fact of the matter is that Christians are not blowing up children and trying to kill other Americans. They aren’t furthering Shariah Law and the Caliphate either. Either we stand for Constitutional freedoms in this country, whether we like those that are freely expressing themselves or not, or we are for tyranny. You can’t have it both ways. But no form of freedom excuses murder and terrorism – unless of course you subject yourself to Islamic doctrine.
Islam — the culture of conquest and subjugation — wants to burn western civilization to the ground and dance in the ashes. They are systematically setting little fires, putting the torch to civility under the pretext that all things civilized cause them great and egregious offense, looking for the day when they can shift from the flames of metaphor to the actual incineration of our culture and all that it stands for. As shocking as it will be to their sympathizers, they’re not posturing when they threaten bombings and burnings. Our duty as a free people is to see those real fires never get lit.
Cities on Fire Series:
By: Denise Simon
Make Dua in Texas, 2 Muslim convert roommates armed with AK-47’s originating from Phoenix, Arizona. This ‘winning the hearts of minds of our known enemies is NOT a working or effective strategy.
No bombs were found, however Garland Police had to detonate some luggage found in their vehicle. But the threats continue in social media against Pam Geller.
The dead shooter, Elton Simpson:
The jihadis were well known to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security also continues to hold hearings on the circle of sympathizers in America and the threats they pose to our national security.
Garland, Texas ~ Police officers shot and killed the man, identified as Elton Simpson of Phoenix, and his companion Sunday evening, outside the Curtis Culwell Center, at an event organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a New York-based group that also uses the name Stop Islamization of America. The gunfire, which began shortly before 7 p.m., left a security guard wounded.
In 2010, federal prosecutors in Arizona charged Mr. Simpson with plotting to travel to Somalia “for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad,” and then lying to a federal agent about his plans. A judge found him guilty of lying to the agent, but said the government had not proved that his plan involved terrorism, and sentenced him to three years’ probation.
The police and F.B.I. agents in Phoenix searched an apartment believed to be connected to Mr. Simpson, with much of the Autumn Ridge apartment complex cordoned off through the night. At the same time, the F.B.I. office in Dallas confirmed that it was providing investigators and a bomb technician to aid the police in Garland, a city just outside Dallas.
Officials did not give a motive for the attack Sunday evening, but drawings of Muhammad, considered offensive by many Muslims, have drawn violent responses in the past. Shortly before the shooting, messages were posted on Twitter with the hashtag #texasattack, including one saying, “May Allah accept us as mujahideen.”
The hosts of the event include Robert Spencer and Pam Geller declared this attack a ‘war on free speech’ in America where the media has become Sharia compliant at the demands of Islam where Muslims declare only they have the ability to declare what is free speech and what is not.
The event in Garland had more than 200 attendees including Tom Trento of United West, Geert Wilders and Congressman Louis Gohmert (R-TX) who actually invited Wilders to the United States.
Geert Wilders had this message after the event:
Thank you all for being here. It’s great to be in Texas, the Lone Star State. The one star in the Texan flag represents all the free Western world needs today: defiance, pride and independence.
It is no coincidence that we are in Garland, Texas, tonight. It is here that, three months ago, shortly after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Islamic activists convened to demand that free speech be curtailed. They want to prohibit cartoons, books and films which they find insulting.
Our answer is clear:
Don’t mess with Texas!
Don’t mess with the free West!
Don’t mess with our freedom of speech!
Friends, allow me to thank Pamela Geller for organizing this exhibition.
Pamela is an extraordinary woman. I only have a few heroes, but Pamela certainly is one of them. Let us give her a big applause!
My friends, you are all winners. Everybody present here tonight deserves respect, just for being here.
The cartoonists, the participants in this Muhammad contest all did fantastic work. All of you are not only talented but also very brave. For Islam has put a death sentence on depicting Muhammad. But this has not frightened you. And even if it did, it has not stopped you. Because you believe in freedom of speech.
I applaud you for that.
However, there can be only one winner of the contest. And that is, as you already know, Bosch Fawstin. Bosch knows what he is talking and cartooning about, being a former – or in his own words recovered – Muslim.
I have known the fantastic work of Bosch – who also created the anti-jihad superhero Pigman – for many years already and I want to congratulate him for his bravery and excellent work and winning the contest today.
Your statement, my statement, the statement of every single person present in this room here tonight is clear: We will never allow barbarism, we will never allow Islam to rob us of our freedom of speech! Never!
I know from my own experience how dangerous it is to stand for this freedom. I know how dangerous it is to speak the truth about Islam.
I am on death lists of Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban and terrorists from ISIS because I tell people the truth about Islam. Islam has declared war on us, on our Judeo-Christian civilization. Islam wants to rob us of the freedoms and liberties. Islam and freedom are totally incompatible.
I am a politician, but cartoonists, like my good friends the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and the Swedish artist Lars Vilks, are also on the death list. Both Kurt and Lars have already been the victims of murder attempts.
Another man on this list was the cartoonist Charb, editor of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. As we all know, he and 9 of his colleagues were murdered last January in Paris by followers of the religion of hate. According to Islamic Sharia law, they were all guilty of the same crime.
The crime of depicting Muhammad, the crime of defaming the so-called Prophet of Islam.
A crime punishable by death by the religion of death.
In order to show them that we will not have Islam dictate us the law, we are here with an exhibition of Muhammad cartoons.
We are here in defiance of Islam.
We are here to defend our rights and stand for freedom of speech.
That is our duty.
As Ronald Reagan, your greatest president ever, said: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
I am happy to say that nobody died while watching these cartoons.
This proves that, unlike jihadis, cartoons do not kill people.
Cartoons do not kill jihadis, but jihadis kill cartoonists.
That is a huge difference which we should never forget.
Huntington was wrong. It is not a clash of civilizations, but a clash between civilization and barbarism.
Our Judeo-Christian culture is far superior to the Islamic one.
I can give you a million reasons. But here is an important one.
We have got humor and they don’t.
There is no humor in Islam.
In 1979, ayatollah Khomeini devoted an entire radio broadcast to this topic: “Allah did not create man so that he could have fun,” the ayatollah said. “There are no jokes in Islam,” he added. “There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam.”
For once, the ayatollah was right.
Islam does not allow free speech, because free speech shows how evil and wrong Islam is.
And Islam does not allow humor, because humor shows how foolish and ridiculous it is.
You are extremely fortunate to live in America. Because you have a first amendment.
In Europe, it is not just the jihadis who go after you. The authorities do so, too.
In the Netherlands, I have been dragged to court on hate speech charges for speaking the truth about Islam. I was acquitted, but now the authorities are prosecuting me again.
We are harassed, but sympathizers of the Islamic State are left in peace. Last Summer, they took to the streets in The Hague. They carried swastikas and ISIS flags. They shouted “Death to the Jews.” And you know what? The authorities did nothing. We have weak leaders. Appeasers are ruling The Netherlands, Europe and the USA. We have to turn the tide and we will. New leadership is what we need to defend our freedom of speech and resist the ongoing Islamization of the West.
Today, many of our Western leaders want us to shut up.
When we tell the truth about Islam, they call it Islamophobia.
When cartoonists make drawings of Muhammad, they are accused of provoking people.
A few years ago, in my country, the Netherlands, the police even raided the house of a cartoonist.
In his address to the United Nations in 2012, President Obama said: “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
But we say: The future must not belong to Islam!
Do you hear, Mr Obama? We say: No to Islam!!
Unlike President Obama and his European colleagues, we are not willing to sign away our freedom and independence.
The day we give away humor and freedom of speech is the day that we cease to exist as a free and independent people.
And that day will never come.
That is what this exhibition is all about!
From here we send a message to President Obama and all his colleagues: We will never submit!
We are not intimidated by Islam.
We will not be picking up swords and axes and breaking into people’s homes. But we will not remain silent either.
Moderation in the face of evil is evil. This is not what our age needs. We must uncap our pens; we must speak words of truth. We are facing a determined enemy who is striving through all means to destroy the West and snuff out our traditions of free thought, free speech, and our Judeo-Christian values. Make no mistake: if we fail, we will be enslaved. So the only option is to defend our freedom with all the energy we have. It’s time to be brave. It’s time to do our duty.
Instead of giving in to fear and adopt the Islamic taboo on depicting Muhammad, I propose that we draw another conclusion:
Lift the cause of the fear!
Let us de-islamize our societies!
No more Islam, no more mosques, no more Islamic schools. It is time for our own culture and heritage.
Let us liberate ourselves from tyranny.
That is another good reason why we are having this exhibition here today.
Depicting Muhammad is an act of liberation!
Let us hold similar exhibitions all over the United States and all over the free world. From Canada to Australia to Europe.
We need Pamela Geller everywhere in the world.
I invite you to come to the Netherlands with this exhibition. I will help you exhibit these cartoons in the Dutch parliament building.
We will never allow Islam to restrict freedom!
And we will never bow in the direction of Mecca!
I am not saying that there are no moderate Muslims. Fortunately, there are Muslims who do not live according to the Islamic commands. But there is no moderate Islam!
Not all Muslims are terrorists. But most terrorists today are Muslims.
That is why we say: The less Islam, the better!
The Islamic creed obliges one and a half billion people around the world to take Muhammad as their example.
He led a gang of robbers, who looted, raped and killed hundreds of people.
Historic sources describe orgies of inhumanity. An example is the genocide of the Jews of Medina in 627. One of the head choppers was Muhammad himself. Confronted with the lunacy of Islamic terrorists today, it is not hard to find out whom they get their inspiration from.
It is from Muhammad who – we have to tell the truth – was a warlord, a murderer and a pedophile
There is no turning back once one has become a Muslim. For even though article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that every person has the right to “change his religion or belief,” in Islam there is only a death penalty for leaving the faith.
So, let us expose Muhammad. Let us show the world what Islam truly is.
And let us support Muslims, like Bosch, who wish to leave Islam and liberate themselves from fear.
Apostates are heroes and more than ever they deserve the support of freedom loving people all over the world.
Muhammad fought and terrorized people with the sword.
We fight Muhammad and his followers with the pen.
And the pen will prove mightier than the sword.
Muhammad’s followers fight us with bloodbaths, but today here in Garland we fight them with humor.
Because bloodbaths enslave, while humor liberates.
Let me end by quoting Sam Houston, the founding father of this great state of Texas:
“Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may.”
May his words inspire us all today never to submit to Islamic barbarism.
Thank you very much.
By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
While some in the media have demonstrated they are willing to challenge the narrative emerging from the Obama administration that downplays ongoing abuses by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), others on the far left such as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow have cast the administration’s chronic disservice to ailing veterans as a vast right-wing targeting conspiracy. VA Secretary Bob McDonald recently aided Maddow’s agenda by claiming during his appearance on her show that the VA was becoming “transparent” and desires “sunshine.”
“It’s hunting season at the VA,” VA Secretary Bob McDonald told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on April 24, announcing a special medical advisory group to fix the VA’s problems. “Nobody wants to talk about the good things. We’re the largest medical system in the country, so when something goes wrong, it becomes news.”
More than a few “somethings” are going wrong at the VA if the ongoing scandals in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix and Tomah, Wisconsin are any indication. Yet, as I noted in a previous column, when President Obama recently traveled to Phoenix, Arizona he asserted that “there were deficits with the way the VA is being run” but then called this a “case of bad apples and systems run awry.”
Secretary McDonald has presented similar talking points to the media, and some, such as Maddow, seem to be buying this narrative.
In reality, the VA scandal represents an insidious form of government corruption and mismanagement which will not cease until those responsible are held accountable. But accountability is the one thing lacking in Obama’s Washington largely due to a complicit media. They fail to hold President Obama accountable for government corruption and malfeasance by blaming low-level civil servants or ignoring ongoing scandals entirely.
The New York Times deserves credit for a recent story outlining the lack of accountability in the continuing VA crisis. However, it relegated this breaking and relevant news to page A16.
Secretary McDonald, who replaced disgraced former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, told NBC’s Meet the Press in February that “the department had fired 60 people involved in manipulating wait times to make it appear that veterans were receiving care faster than they were,” reports Dave Phillips for the Times. Then the VA clarified that “only 14 people had been removed from their jobs, while about 60 others had received lesser punishments,” he writes.
“Now, new internal documents show that the real number of people removed from their jobs is much smaller still: at most, three,” writes Phillips. Sharon Helman, “the only person fired” was “removed not for her role in the manipulation of waiting lists but for receiving ‘inappropriate gifts,’” continues Phillips.
In the meantime, VA employees feel empowered to retaliate against whistleblowers within the VA, likely because of these weak accountability measures.
“Once you talk to the media, you are on your own…The VA does not support you, and you are not representing the organization,” declared a Denver, Colorado VA Medical Center Director, as I pointed out in March. She continued, “The only thing you are representing is yourself, and then, once you are in hot water, nobody will help you.”
CNN also reported in March that a Los Angeles, California VA representative, Dr. Sky MacDougall, actually lied to Congress about wait times at the Greater Los Angeles Medical Center, and that Congress was investigating this incident based on their CNN report.
VA crises are spreading throughout the country like a wildfire. On March 30 Congressional members traveled to Tomah to hold a joint field hearing to discuss a death resulting from the over-medication of one patient, the over-prescription of drugs to other patients, and the neglect of an older veteran who came in and suffered from a stroke while waiting for care at the Tomah VA. The older veteran, Thomas Baer, died from complications due to a stroke after delays at the VA Urgent Care center, an unavailable CT machine, no helicopter, and after being driven by ambulance to a new facility long after the initial onset of his symptoms.
One of the witnesses, Ryan Honl, a combat veteran who suffers from PTSD, was a whistleblower at the Tomah VA Medical Center. Honl testified about how his electronic medical file was accessed by multiple persons at the VA. “However, as soon as I blew the whistle, I started hearing about my instability from other employees,” he writes in his official testimony. “In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, [Dr. David Houlihan’s] attorney alluded to my mental health status,” he states. “Shortly after while VA investigators were in the Tomah VA, Police Chief Huffman directed that a police report be done on me by my former supervisor…and two coworkers…four months after I resigned over a supposed ‘threatening incident’ that took place while I was an employee before I resigned.”
“Clearly, my mental health diagnoses are being used by those I reported in order to discredit me,” he writes.
Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner told Congress earlier this month that “The number of new whistleblower cases from VA employees remains overwhelming,” according to Joe Davidson of The Washington Post. In fact, Davidson reports that her testimony revealed that “whistleblower cases reviewed by her office are almost 150 percent higher than historical levels. Nearly 40 percent of her office’s incoming cases are from VA, although her office takes cases from across the government.”
If VA whistleblower cases are up 150 percent when compared to “historical levels,” why aren’t the media questioning President Obama’s leadership on this issue?
“Monday’s session demonstrated that VA’s entrenched culture of retaliation against whistleblowers endures, a year after revelations exploded over poor service and the covering up of long patient wait times,” writes Davidson.
Then he defends Secretary McDonald, writing, “The retaliation continues despite the solid efforts of the current VA secretary, who replaced one driven out by the scandal.”
Accountability and professional standards are set by those at the very top. Secretary McDonald was confirmed last July, yet it appears that little change has happened at the VA under his leadership, nor that of his boss, President Obama.
In previous articles covering the ongoing VA scandal I pointed to the media’s reluctance, if not outright refusal, to implicate the Obama administration for its role in facilitating the ongoing corruption at the VA.
But in some far-left circles this has been taken to the furthest possible conclusion, that the scandal is about to be exploited by the “right wing” for its own purposes.
MSNBC’s Maddow recently minimized the poor treatment received by veterans at the VA, warned that the right wing would soon push to privatize the VA, and gave Secretary McDonald a platform to claim that the administration was actually being “transparent” on this issue.
“One of the reasons I want you to be here tonight, Mr. Secretary [Robert McDonald], is because I do feel like VA is about to have political challenges that it has not faced in at least a generation, if not more, and veterans groups have been able to hold off some of those challenges in the past,” said Maddow on her April 15 show. “…I’m not sure that VA has the political backup right now to fight those battles. And honestly, I’m here partly because I want to sort of raise the flag that this is coming.”
The graphic on the MSNBC broadcast read, “V.A. Secretary on Right-Wing Efforts to Privatize VA.”
Secretary McDonald responded to her by emphasizing the VA’s alleged transparency and desire for “sunshine.” He said:
“That’s why we’re here. We want to get out. We want to be transparent. We now publish our data every two weeks online. Sunshine is a great, transparency is a great benefit to us. We’re gonna do our share. We’re gonna improve the results of the VA. We’re working very hard to do that, and hopefully veterans will be happy with the care we provide them. It’s the most exciting mission that we could possibly have.”
Both participants in this highly disingenuous interchange may have wished to assure the public about the VA’s integrity, but the growing news about corruption at the VA, prompted in part by Congressional hearings held by Rep. Jeff Miller’s (R-FL) House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, makes it less and likely that the public can be fooled by such false assurances.
Veterans actually served by the VA certainly aren’t being fooled, and a number of them have contacted me after reading my articles on this continuing scandal to say that things are bad, and in some cases even worse than I described.
As is true for most MSNBC shows, Maddow’s presentation of this scandal was highly misleading as well. Veterans groups are now actively asking for change themselves. For example, the price tag for the VA Medical Center in Denver, Colorado has ballooned from $328 million to $1.73 billion. As a result, “The American Legion in Colorado held a protest last year in which members held up ‘JUST BUILD THE DAMN THING’ signs and carried shovels, symbolically ready to build it themselves,” reported The Washington Post’s Emily Wax-Thibodeaux in March.
There is no doubt that the VA is a behemoth of a bureaucracy, and McDonald seems like a sincere and capable manager. But regrettably he also seems to have been captured by the Obama administration’s culture of deceit, of punishing whistleblowers, and of failing to hold people accountable. Hopefully, for the sake of America’s veterans, of which he is one, that culture will change, and change fast. McDonald was caught exaggerating his service history earlier this year, which may have contributed to skepticism about whether he is the right man for this job.
Rachel Maddow’s transparent attempt to cast the VA scandal as the fabrication of right-wing political forces bent on destroying an embattled institution serves as a red herring designed to provide Secretary McDonald, and thereby this administration, with a platform to praise the past successes of this corrupt, mismanaged bureaucracy—at the expense of those veterans who have died or been neglected. But MSNBC and other complicit media aren’t interested in accountability, they’re interested in covering for the Obama administration.