Kernels - Monday, July 14, 2014

by Mark  

Welcome to the latest edition of Kernels From the Cornfield - No Husks, No Hulls, No Shucks!

News with a dash of commentary to spice up your fare for Monday, July 14th, 2014.

1. Citi Fined! - The Justice Department announced today that CitiBank has been fined $7 billion dollars over its role in the housing bubble blow-up that led to the 2008 recession.

The news, however, did not stop Citi's stocks from rallying upward. Then again when has the stock market been reflected of how most of Americans feel about the economy?

Citi was accused of packaging bad mortgages. Those bad packages led to the meltdown from which America is still recovering.

Agreeing to the settlement, Citi will not have to face a civil lawsuit. Homeowners, however, will see little relief or compensation. Only $500 million of the fine is going to five states.

2. VA Still Screwing Up - There may be a new boss in place, but the Veterans Administration can't get its act together yet.

A new Inspector General report out today notes that in its rush to cut the backlog of veterans waiting on disability determination , tens of thousands of vets are receiving payments without any medical evidence those vets deserve benefits.

Reportedly, the VA may misspend nearly $371 million over the next five years on claims of 100% disability alone.

Compounding the situation, it was discovered there are mail bins full of claims that have not been electronically scanned for the past three years.

While our veterans must be provided for and promises kept, taking shortcuts or mismanaging the system cannot be justified for the sake of saying, "See, we cut the backlog."

The VA is failing in its fiduciary responsibility not only to our veterans, but to all of America's taxpayers.

3. Weapons for Qatar - Really? - The tiny emirate on the Arabian Peninsula with boatloads of oil money facilitated the release of five Taliban leaders from Quantanamo Bay in exchange for American soldier Bowe Berghdahl a couple of months back.

Qatar is being accused of financing jihadists, including Hamas which is now in an undeclared war with Israel.

Qatar is considered a key US ally. For this the tiny country will be sold $11 billion worth of Apache attack helicopters along with Patriot and Javelin air-defense weapons.

Should the US of A put strings on the sale to insure that the weapons don't fall into the wrong hands?

4. Back in the Barracks - Bowe Berghdahl, the American soldier held in captivity by the Taliban for five years after being captured in Afghanistan, has been returned to regular duty and assigned to a post in the San Antonio, Texas area.

The controversary centering around how and why Bergdahl left his post and was later captured will become heated, I am sure, over the next few days.

An Army investigation shortly after Bergdahl went missing did not conclude any wrongdoing on his part. But former members of his unit have been vocal in stating Bergdahl was disenchanted with the US mission in Afghanistan and deserted his post.

The Army has stated that in his new position, Bergdahl will be available for questioning by investigators seeking his side of what happened in June, 2009 when he walked off the base and landed in the hands of the Taliban.

5. Racial Politics? - US Attorney General Eric Holder is claiming there are some in the opposition playing racial politics. At the same time, some of the right are accusing Holder and President Barack Obama of fomenting divisions between blacks and whites.

Rather than opposing proposals from the White House on ideological or policy grounds, Holder believes Republicans are acting out of "racial animus".

I have noticed some infusion of this on social media and even on news sites, which allow "citizen journalism", such as CNN's iReport. Some on both sides at times seem to throw down the race card when it suits the contributor's purpose or point-of- view.

Rather than becoming more of a melting pot, are we becoming more segregated than we were a short six years ago?

6. More Problems at CDC - Dismaying revelations continue to mount about one of America's most trusted institutions - the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

I reported here while back about scientists in the Atlanta facility being exposed to live anthrax virus. The most recent finding exposed the use of expired disinfectants and using Ziploc bags to transfer dangerous germs.

How reliable is the CDC and how safe from exposure and epidemic are we when such sloppy work is going on?

7. Proposed Cease-Fire - The Israelis are considering a cease-fire in its battle with Hamas in Gaza, but Hamas is calling the idea laughable.

Almost 200 Palestinians have been killed as Israel has retaliated against wave after wave of bombs and rockets being fired by Hamas into the Jewish State.

While the casualties have been on the south side of the border, Israel has been alerting civilians of retaliatory attacks before bombing begins and give residents a chance to leave and seek shelter. Hamas, however, gives no warning and is not discreet on where its rockets explode.

8. Polor Vortex? - One of the coolest July's in history is expected as a polor vortex pushes southward out of the northern reaches this week. The last time July was this chilly was 30 years ago in the mid 1980s.

Doesn't the North Pole realize this is summer?

Doesn't Jack Frost know this is the time of the year when the mercury rises to near boiling point?

Apparently Mother Nature is playing a joke on us. But even with the much cooler temperatures, it will be worse not better for people with respiratory problems.

9. Women Bishops - Breaking with tradition, the Church of England will allow the ordination of women as bishops. This is a giant step for women of faith, who have longed fought for equality in the Church.

Women have been allowed to serve as priests since 1994. The question of becoming a bishop has been discussed since 2005.

The measure must still be approved by the British Parliament. The Queen is the titular head of the Church of England and Anglicans worldwide.

10. Crisis at the Border - Congress has only 12 more workdays left to find a compromise to deal with the humanitarian crisis on the southern border and what to do with nearly 60,000 children from Central America

Some Republican lawmakers are now calling for a revision in the 2008 law which requires children from Central America to have a hearing to determine if they meet refugee status or not. Those deemed refugees get to stay. The others are deported back to their homelands.

Even if a compromise is reached about the children, the larger issue of fixing our broken immigration system is unlikely to be addressed until after the fall Midterm Elections.

Two Texans, Republican Senator John Cornyn and Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar, announced a compromise today which would modify the 2008 law. However, children deemed to be in danger would be able to seek refugee status if they can provide a credible threat of persecution or have been victims of human trafficking.

Immigration judges must make a decision within 72 hours of a child's claim rather than the current system which could take up to two years before a judge sees a child.

11. Forgotten Crisis - Remember how Russia took Crimea from Ukraine and remains camped on its eastern border?

Apparently last week the Ukraine was accused of lobbing a bomb into Russia. Russia has apparently shot down an Ukrainian plane. Russia says it won't use direct missile strikes against its western neighbor.

12. In the Courts - Two cases that have caught fire in social media involve a comedian and a retired police officer.

Tracy Morgan who was injured in a deadly crash is suing retail giant Wal-Mart. Morgan is alleging that the company knew or should have known its driver was driving beyond the alloted hours on the road.

Then there's the retired police officer, Curtis Reeves Jr., who shot and killed a man in a movie theater. The man was texting with his young daughter and refused to stop when Reeves demanded he put away the cell phone. Reeves is out on bail awaiting trial.

That's what caught my attention for Monday, July 14th, 2014.

Tune in tomorrow for another episode of Kernels From the Cornfield.

I am Mark Ivy.

Good evening!

Kernels - Friday, July 11, 2014

by Mark  

Welcome to the latest edition of Kernels From the Cornfield - No Husks, No Hulls, No Shucks!

News with a dash of commentary to spice up your fare for Friday, July 11th, 2014.

1. Border Crisis - No change in positions on the humanitarian crisis and issue of illegal immigration along the southern border. Heat is getting hotter on both the White House and the Congress to take action.

More and more information is coming out that the flood of children was expected for months and perhaps years. The government, both Executive and Legislative branches, seem to have ignored the growing epidemic of children coming from Central America.

2. Verboten! - The saying goes, "When momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

At this moment, Momma Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel, isn't too pleased with the US of A.

Any rational person knows that governments across the globe spy on each other - whether friend or foe. But the unwritten code is "you don't get caught".

After last year's revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) was listening in on Merkel's private phone calls and other world leaders, you would think the American intelligence community would take greater caution.

Apparently, not so.

The discovery of covert operations in the Rhineland has led to the top US spy being kicked out of the country. So far neither President Barack Obama nor the White House has reached out to Merkel to try and smooth the ruffled feathers.

3. Drafted! - Yes, I know the US has maintained an all-volunteer army for a long time now. But apparently the Selective Service is still trying to draft World War I era teens who face jail time if they don't register or report to their local draft board.

In a case that is too strange to not be true, seems the Selective Service sent out 14,000 notices to men born between 1893 and 1897. The agency say it was human error caused by not entering the correct century into the computer system and only the last two digits of the years in question.

Your tax dollars at work. Gotta love it.

4. Redraw That Map - A Florida judges has thrown out a redistricting plan of congressional districts. Two of the 27 districts, one represented by a Republican and one by a Democrat, were found wanting.

The Florida legislature must go back to the drawing board after the judge determined that Republicans conspired to manipulate district boundaries.

It is not expected that the new map will be ready in time for the 2014 Midterm Elections.

5. Suing the President - Speaker of the House John Boehner is following through with plans for the House of Representatives to sue President Barack Obama in federal court for abuse of authority.

It was announced last night the focus would be on action taken delaying the business mandate in the President's signature domestic legislation, the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats and supporters of the President are saying it is a political stunt to churn up the base for the upcoming fall elections. Democrats also say that Republicans are being hypocritical of taking on the President for use of executive action. They note the President has signed fewer executive orders than any president since Grover Cleveland.

Republicans and opponents of the President say it is not the number of executive orders nor do they contest the authority of the President to take executive action. According to Republicans it is the substance of the executive orders which is an attempt to bypass Congress and to rewrite legislation which is exclusively the authority of the Legislative Branch.

Democrats say that Republicans are upset that the President did what they asked in delaying the employer mandate in the ACA. Republicans claim the President exceeded his authority by doing it without consent of Congress.

The Republicans did call for the President to delay both the individual and employer mandates. The President said, "No." Republicans say they were ready to pass the delay legislation, but the White House said no delay.

A few months later the President, by executive order, delayed the employer mandate. It is such action that Boehner says the President is over-reaching and rewriting law.

I agree that the President has the authority to use executive orders. I agree that the number of EOs has been relatively small. I also agree that it is the substance of the EOs which are in question. I do believe that as Boehner said, the President acts only when it suits his personal or political aims and does circumvent the Legislative Branch and steps over clear-cut lines.

6. Lebanon Next? - A rocket was fired into Israel from Lebanon over night. This brings new fears that the undeclared war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza along the southern edge of the country may soon turn into a two-front battle. Lebanon is situated to Israel's north and borders Syria on the east.

Lebanon is also home to Hezbollah with whom Israel was in a brusing conflict just a few years ago. Hezbollah, unlike Hamas, has much better trained soldiers and more sophisticated and more accurate missiles and equipment.

7. A Bone for Sports Hounds - Though not a sports enthusiast, I could not do this edition without noting that "King" Lebron James is going home to Cleveland, Ohio.

The basketball star with two championships in the basket announced today that he would be returning to the Cavaliers rather than re-signing with the Miami Heat.

That's what caught my attention for Friday, July 11th, 2014.

Tune in Monday for another episode of Kernels From the Cornfield.

I am Mark Ivy.

Good evening!

Kernels - Thursday, July 10, 2014

by Mark  

Welcome to the latest edition of Kernels From the Cornfield - No Husks, No Hulls, No Shucks!

News with a dash of commentary to spice up your fare for Thursday, July 10th, 2014.

My apologies upfront if tonight's recap of the news seems a little scattered. My health conditions are playing havoc with my focus and what little mind I have left.

1. Border Crisis - The border crisis continues to boil.

President Barack Obama continues to rail at Republicans as the problem. The President still doesn't get the importance of acting like the Commander-in-Chief and going to the border to assess the situation himself.

It's not just Republicans, Democratic lawmakers are starting to wear thin of the President's refusal to own the crisis and to take action now - not some time down the road.

Democrats are saying the President won't just be handed what he wants with no questions asked.

A fellow CNN iReporter shared a link to a job posting on a federal government web site back in January. In January, this crisis was not a crisis, but the job posting clearly reveals that it was expected.

Read all about it in my op-ed: None Dare Call It Complicity. It's an eye opener.

For more on this: Justify $3.7 Billion Request.

2. No Man Left Behind? - The Marine in a Mexico prison I told you about yesterday, had his first day in court after being held for 102 days. The judge sent him back to a cell to wait.

When is the President going to rescue this service member who served honorably in Afghanistan?

3. Loose Lips - The World War II saying was that loose lips sink ships. Apparently former career Internal Revenue Service bureaucrat Lois Lerner was taking her cue from 60 years ago.

It came out in a congressional hearing yesterday an email survived. What appears to be on the surface is an attempt to "destroy evidence". That email had Lerner inquiring if emails and private messaging were available to members of Congress.

Lerner is alleged once she learned Congress could access her emails and messages wrote her underlings to be careful what they put in emails and messages from that point onward.

Sure sounds like Lerner had something to hide.

IRS officials testifying before Congress took umbrage that one Congressman dared to term the loss of emails as ridiculous - something every ordinary American in the country already thinks.

The IRS officials threatened to not cooperate - you call this cooperation? - if the Congressman continued to call the IRS or its employees ridiculous.

4. Dirty Bomb? - Word coming out of Iraq is that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has come into possession of 90 pounds of uranium. Experts doubt the terror organization has the capability of turning the element into a nuclear bomb.

Are we any safer knowing a group bent on our destruction may be able to create a small, dirty bomb packed in a suitcase or backpack?

Remember what a pressure cooker did in Boston?

5. Half a Trillion Dollars - The amount of money the federal government agencies and departments admit to paying out improperly over the past five years is $500,000,000.

That is half a trillion dollars!

How much crisis would the infrastructure and highway repair fund be in if the government wasn't handing over $100 billion per year in improper payments to people and companies that shouldn't be getting our tax dollars?

The information was revealed Wednesday during a meeting of the House Oversight Committee.

6. Pause in Equality March? - The State of Utah, whose ban on equality was ruled unconstitutional by a panel of the 10th District Court of Appeal last month, has decided to go straight to the Supreme Court for a final determination.

If the Supremes agree to hear the appeal, it could put a pause on other cases pending in other District Courts of Appeal nationwide until the Justices rule.

Should the Supremes agree to Utah's request, the constitutionality of equality for same-gender couples will be on this fall's docket with a ruling coming in time for the start-up of the 2016 presidential race.

7. Mideast in Flames - What more can I say?

Like last night Israel is on the border threatening to invade Gaza. The situation has become tense enough Wolf Blitzer is broadcasting from Jerusalem.

How much sooner before the tanks roll?

That's what caught my attention for Thursday, July 10th, 2014.

Tune in tomorrow for another episode of Kernels From the Cornfield.

I am Mark Ivy.

Good evening!

Kernels - Wednesday, July 9, 2014

by Mark  

Welcome to the latest edition of Kernels From the Cornfield - No Husks, No Hulls, No Shucks!

News with a dash of commentary to spice up your fare for Wednesday, July 9th, 2014.

1. Children in Crisis - Is the pressure cooker building too much steam to where the children in crisis along the southern border and the broken immigration system may soon explode rather than oozing out the sides as it has for the past couple of weeks?

The issue became even more highlighted today when President Barack Obama traveled to Texas and late this afternoon met with Texas Governor Rick Perry.

The President held a news conference following the meeting and stated he philosophically did not disagree with the Republican Governor about the onslaught along the border.

The President's solution: Give him the $3.7 billion he's asked for and for the House of Representatives to fall in line and pass the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill.

But even Democrats, some from Texas, are saying that they won't just roll over, but will look at the requested money bill and determine whether to give the President what he wants, less or nothing.

The President refused to do as President John F. Kennedy gong to Berlin to proclaim to the world his solidarity with the German people or President Ronald Reagan who stood at the Berlin Wall and demanded that it be torn down. More than just a photo op, as Commander-in-Chief, if the President had or would visit the crisis at the border, he would send a strong message to the parents, the governments in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to plug the exodus endangering its children.

But no, this President, who has never shied from a photo-op, won't go to the border. He won't own what is clearly as Captain of the American Ship his problem.

But the Congress can't escape its own culpability in this crisis.

Congress is tasked by the US Constitution to provide oversight of the Executive Branch. The Congress is tasked with passing legislation to insure a working immigration system.

Congress has failed and is failing.

A fellow CNN iReporter shared a link to a job posting on a federal government web site back in January. In January, this crisis was not a crisis, but the job posting clearly reveals that it was expected.

Read all about it in my op-ed: None Dare Call It Complicity. It's an eye opener.

2. No Man Left Behind? - What about the American Marine who accidentally turned around and entered into Mexico.

That US military member has been held in a Mexican jail for the past couple of months with what appears to be no effort on the part of the White House to secure his release.

Could it be that this Marine doesn't count because there are no Taliban terrorists, who jump back in the battle to kill us, to trade for him?

That Marine went before a Mexican judge today, but at this moment remains in custody.

3. Wanna Hit? - With the US border in disarray and the country in an uproar over the children in crisis, the President went bar hopping in Denver, Colorado Tuesday night.

The President turned down several requests reportedly to share a marijuana cigarette. Marijuana is legal in Colorado for recreational use.

Photos of the evening show the President shooting pool, kicking back beers and having a good time laughing and joking with bar patrons.

Yet the President won't go to the border and survey the crisis as Commander-in-Chief because it would be a photo-op?

4. It's a Conspiracy, I Tell Ya, a Conspiracy - That's what senior New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is saying about accusations he consorted with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.

Menendez is claiming that the government of Cuba has orchestrated a smear campaign against him. He says that Cuban operatives paid these prostitutes, including one who is underaged, to lie about him having sex with them.

Is a Cuban conspiracy possible? Yes.

But it has a ring to me like that "far right wing conspiracy" defense.

5. Drone Attack? - The Pentagon is reportedly developing plans and scenarios to recommend to the President for using a drone to take out Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

If it is possible to take out Baghdadi, the problem that has erupted in Iraq will not go away. The issues and concerns which have Sunni and Shia killing each other will not stop.

6. Did You Hear? - Former governor of Alaska and Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, called last night for the impeachment of the President. Palin made some good points, but doesn't look ahead.

Impeachment would go nowhere and accomplish nothing. Bill Clinton was impeached, but remained in office. Same would happen here.

The issues and concerns would not go away.

7. Mideast in Flames - What more can I say?

Israel remains in an undeclared state of war with Hamas. The Palestinian Authority is making noise. Iraq and Syria are in flames.

We are on the sidelines wondering when we will be pulled into the battles.

That's what caught my attention for Wednesday, July 9th, 2014.

Tune in tomorrow for another episode of Kernels From the Cornfield.

I am Mark Ivy.

Good evening!

Kernels - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

by Mark  

Welcome to the latest edition of Kernels From the Cornfield - No Husks, No Hulls, No Shucks!

News with a dash of commentary to spice up your fare for Tuesday, July 8th, 2014.

1. Not in My Backyard - The dual tragedy of both a broken immigration system and the crisis of children gathering at the southern border is taking all the air out of the room.

Neither side seems really willing to sit down and hammer out solutions to both concerns.

Take for example, President Barack Obama will travel to Texas tomorrow, but has declined, though he is Commander-in-Chief, to view the problem along the border first hand, turning down an invite from Governor Rick Perry.

The President instead has extended his own offer for Perry to meet him in Dallas, hundreds of miles away from the crisis. Many are asking if the border trouble may be Obama's Katrina moment.

You remember President George W. Bush flying over New Orleans seeming out-of-touch and indifferent to the plight of the residents in a city wiped out by the hurricane, don't you?

Is the President sending a similar signal of indifference?

The President is requesting $3.7 billion to deal with both the porous border, broken system and the humanitarian crisis with the children. Some Republican lawmakers are already saying, "No," but offering up no solution themselves.

In the meantime, American citizens along the border are seething. That frustration is spreading and even being heard and voiced in the Heartland, in the Cornfield.

The problems are real. The vitriol, the hatred of some, however, is not rational and misplaced.

Should We Redact These Words? I wonder in an opinion today at From The Cornfield.

2. War? - Looks like it may be all out war, perhaps even before I complete tonight's Kernels, between Israel and Hamas. This has the potential of drawing Lebanon and Jordan, which border Syria, into the fight.

While moving farther southwest, the fight between Sunni and Shia is being waged on a new front in Yemen, where Shiites have seized a major town in the Republic.

All I can say is, "Worser and worser."

3. American Imam - An internet iman, an American in Michigan, has been identified as being a top recruiter to the jihadist movement. Reportedly, Ahmed Jibril, walking the line of legality, is a driving force in reaching impressionable young people in the US and other Western nations to take up arms in the conflicts raging in Syria and Iraq.

Taking full advantage of America's freedom of speech, Jibril is being careful not to cross the line or call on would-be extremists to take up arms against their home country.

4. It's Cleveland! - The Republican Party announced today it would conduct its 2016 National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. The GOP also announced a June convention rather than the traditional late summer timeframe.

Cleveland stretched out along Lake Erie is in a must-win state for any party wanting the White House. The pivotal state is a smart choice for Republicans.

5. War on Women? - Seems the National Organization for Women have labeled the Little Sisters of the Poor, Catholic nuns, as part of its list of "The Dirty 100". The nuns are on the list being targeted by NOW because instead of only servicing, treating and being charitable to Catholics, the nuns are guilty of helping anyone in need.

NOW is upset that nuns are suing to not be forced to provide coverage for contraceptions for the women in the order who have taken a vow of chastity and have been wed to Christ.

So NOW has launched its own "war on women" - Catholic nuns that is - who happen to be women - for not towing the feminist line.

6. Challenging the ACA - A decision is expected any day from both the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the 4th District Court of Appeals which may have a devastating effect on President Obama's signature health care insurance reform law, the Affordable Care Act.

At issue are these 10 words: "[T]hrough an Exchange established by the State under Section 1311."

The section clearly says an exchange established by a state, which 16 states did. But what about the 34 states which did not set up a marketplace exchange?

The crux is subsidies to purchase health insurance. The plaintiffs are claiming that in those 34 states which did not establish an exchange, enrollees are not eligible for the subsidy.

This has the potential, depending on how the Courts rule, to be a death knell for the ACA. If the Courts split, the cases will most certainly land in the Supreme Court. A concurring opinion from both may not make it to the Supreme docket.

That's what caught my attention for Tuesday, July 8th, 2014.

Tune in tomorrow for another episode of Kernels From the Cornfield.

I am Mark Ivy.

Good evening!

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