Mattis Poster Causes VA Workers to Run In Fear and Panic

This is so stupid I don’t even know where to begin:

Local United States Department of Veterans Affairs staffers were left horrified after a coworker put up a “Make Killing Great Again” poster on his office door.

It all played out earlier this month at a VA office building on Clairmont road in DeKalb County.

After a source inside the agency sent Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Aaron Diamant a picture of that disturbing poster Thursday night, he spent this afternoon working to find out what the agency is doing to ease workers fears and hold the staffer who put it up accountable.

“I’m afraid. I’m truly afraid,” a VA staffer, who spotted the poster and asked not to be identified, told Diamant.

The long-time VA employee, who asked not to be identified, told Diamant she’s terrified every time she returns to work at the building that houses the Healthcare Eligibility Center.

The poster on a 3rd-floor office door contained an image of Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the words, “Make Killing Great Again.”

“I thought that he would come in there any day and at any time and start shooting the office up,” the employee said.  [WSB-TV Atlanta]

You can read more at the link, but this poster is clearly a parody of President Trump’s “Making America Great Again” tagline that anyone with a sense of humor would understand.  The fact the media is calling the poster “disturbing” and someone working at the VA is “truly afraid” of the poster I think says more about them then the person who put the poster up in their cubicle.

With that all said the work place should be a professional environment which the poster clearly does not contribute to.  When asked to take the poster down by the union the worker took the poster down.  Yet people going running to the media hoping to blow this up and want the guy investigated, for what?

Camp Humphreys Commander Concerned About Government Hiring Freeze

I know a few people that have been impacted by this government hiring freeze.  It will be interesting to see how long it lasts:

Col. Joseph Holland, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, says the federal hiring freeze is having a big impact on military operations in South Korea, despite exemptions.

 The Trump administration’s hiring freeze has left key jobs vacant and could jeopardize readiness at this U.S. base, the commander said Wednesday.

“The hiring freeze that we’re under right now … is having a big impact on us in Korea writ large,” Col. Joseph Holland, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, said in an interview in his office.

President Donald Trump ordered a government-wide hiring freeze on Jan. 23, just three days after taking office. He excluded the military and allowed the Office of Personnel Management to grant exemptions elsewhere.  [Stars & Stripes]

Here is an example of some of the impacts the hiring freeze is having on Camp Humphreys:

For example, the air field, which is active around-the-clock, is relying on an acting manager because officials were unable to push through a final offer to fill the role on a permanent basis before the Feb. 22 cutoff date, Holland said.

“We have a final offer given to a gentleman coming from the United States, but he can’t come here because of the hiring freeze. He fell outside of the window,” he added.

Holland said other vacancies stranded by the hiring freeze included directors for the Army’s substance-abuse program and the community service program, as well as the garrison sexual-assault response coordinator and victim advocate.

You can read more at the link.

State Department Reissues Travel Warning for Americans Traveling to North Korea

The State Department’s travel warning seems pretty pointless to me.  Anyone willing to go to North Korea has to have knowledge of all the Americans detained over the past decade and still people keep going there:

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday issued a new warning against traveling to North Korea.

“The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to North Korea/the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) due to the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement,” the department said.

“This system imposes unduly harsh sentences for actions that would not be considered crimes in the United States and threatens U.S. citizen detainees with being treated in accordance with ‘wartime law of the DPRK,'” it said.

At least 14 U.S. citizens have been detained in North Korea in the past 10 years, it said.  [Yonhap]

Of those 14 citizens detained all of them did something stupid to get detained on top of being stupid enough to travel to North Korea in the first place.

Picture of the Day: Secretary Mattis Arrives at Osan AB

An E-4 carrying the U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis lands at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Feb. 2, 2017. The visit, which is Mattis’ first official visit to a foreign country as secretary of defense, highlighted the common traits and strengths shared by the U.S. and #ROK governments, including the commitment to bi-lateral cooperation in keeping regional safety and stability in check. #SecDef (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Steffen)  [USFK Facebook Site]

Defense Secretary Mattis To Visit Korea and Japan as Early As Next Week

This is a sign of how importantly the new Secretary of Defense views the region by making this his first overseas trip:

James Mattis

James Mattis, secretary of defense in the Donald Trump administration, is expected to make his first overseas trip to Korea and Japan next month, according to multiple diplomatic sources. Mattis is expected to hold talks with Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo amid concerns over North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations.

“Secretary Mattis, as his first overseas trip, is reviewing visiting Korea and Japan as his top priority,” one diplomatic source in Washington said Tuesday. “This shows that the Trump administration following its inauguration is unswervingly putting emphasis on its relationship with its two allies in Asia.”

Multiple officials said that retired four-star Marine general will visit Korea as early as next week.   [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.

Did Rex Tillerson Call for A Blockade of Chinese Islets in the South China Sea?

It seems the domestic political situation in China would force them to take action against any blockade of their artificial islands in the South China Sea.  China’s advanced ballistic missile capability is how they would likely respond.  Before any blockade is called for I hope people fully understand the risks:

Rex Tillerson

Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon chief, didn’t get where he is by being nice to China. When Beijing tried to force his company to abandon a gas exploration project in the waters off Vietnam in 2008, ExxonMobil showed it the finger. BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and several others caved to Chinese pressure. ExxonMobil is still there, drilling on a Vietnamese license in waters also claimed by China.

Is Tillerson about to do the same on behalf of the United States? On Wednesday, the secretary of state-designate seemed ready to give China the finger again. He called on the incoming Trump administration to deny China access to the seven artificial island bases it has built in the southern part of the South China Sea.

In response to a question about whether he would support a more aggressive posture in the South China Sea, he told his Senate confirmation hearing, “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.” The jaws of the Asia policy-watching community hit the floor.  [Foreign Policy]

You can read the rest at the link, but the author thinks Tillerson may have misspoke and meant blockading any action by the Chinese to build a base on the Scarborough Shoal which would be less dangerous, but still quite a risky strategy to implement if China is committed to forcing the issue.  It seems it would be a tough sell to the American people to risk war with China over the Scarborough Shoal.

The other wild card in all of this is what if President Duerte in the Philippines cuts a deal with China to let them build on the shoal which is claimed by the Philippines?

Many US Government Employees In South Korea Face Pay Cut

If you are a US government civilian employee working outside of the Seoul area you are about to get a cut in pay.  According to the below article those losing their differential pay could lose around $300 a month:

Kim Yong-Sik, then a U.S. Forces Korea employee, checks boiler room machinery at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Nov. 8, 2010. The U.S. recently eliminated a hardship differential allowance leading to a loss of income for nearly 3,000 Korea-based civilian employees.

In an unusual move, the U.S. has eliminated the post hardship differential allowance for some 2,800 Korea-based civilian government employees stationed outside the Seoul metropolitan area, according to a memo obtained by Stars and Stripes.

U.S. Forces Korea informed the employees about the pay reduction over the weekend in a letter dated April 15 and signed by chief of staff Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal. Vandal told the employees he was “very concerned about the effect this will have on you and your families” and promised to address the issue as quickly as possible.

The State Department determines the hardship differential – distributed for extremely difficult or unhealthy conditions or physical hardship – based on a questionnaire that is supposed to be administered by local installations. It has been 5 percent of basic compensation for most locations outside Seoul for the past several years.

“However, as a result of the latest (Department of State) review, the rate was reduced to 0 percent for all U.S. government civilians in Korea” as of April 3, according to the memo, which also said eligible employees will see start seeing the loss in paychecks this week.

Civilian employees in the Seoul metropolitan area were not affected since they did not receive the differential.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.