Veterans get screwed again

I am so very tired of politicians playing zero-sum games where they must make the other side lose, so they can get a political win. What uniformly happens is we the people get screwed. Just recently a bipartisan bill to help veterans with health care that passed in Senate by a large margin was slightly amended by the House and returned to the Senate for an expected passing.

Yet, enough Republicans decided to switch their vote and the veterans got screwed. Comedian Jon Stewart, who had led this cause along with a successful, but arduous 9/11 restitution cause a few years ago, has led a reaction that calls the Republican Senate members out for their bait and switch tactics.

Per the New York Times article this weekend, called “Jon Stewart blasts GOP after Senate blocks burn pit bill for Veterans” by Callie Patteson:

“Comedian Jon Stewart doubled down Friday on a viral rant ripping Republican senators who voted against advancing a bill that would boost benefits for veterans who were exposed to toxins from burn pits during their service in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Forty-one Republican senators voted against cloture Wednesday on the Honoring our PACT Act, accusing Democrats of using the measure to hide a ‘budget gimmick’ that would permit $400 billion in spending unrelated to veterans’ health care. 

During an interview with Fox News Friday, the former ‘Daily Show’ host insisted the bill was no different from the version that passed the Senate 84-14 in June.

‘This bill is purely based on toxic exposure health care and benefits to veterans,’ said Stewart, who urged viewers to look up the text for themselves.”

Maybe the GOP is scared that other things are getting passed which make Democrats look good. I just don’t know. I do know this is not the first time veterans have gotten screwed by politicians. The VA Healthcare system was in dire straits a few years ago with a huge need for more doctors, specialists, etc. Senator John McCain led a bipartisan effort to meet a planned request for a $64 billion bill to hire more doctors and get more resources. It was defeated and created an outrage from Veterans’ groups.

Then a debacle of backlog on appointments occurred in Phoenix a few months later and members of Congress asked how could you let this happen? A few more months later, $16 billion in funding was passed. Note this is 1/4 of the total requested and six months after being requested. The veterans again got screwed.

And, it should be noted only recently was funding provided for compensation for poisoning Marines and their families with toxic water systems at Camp Lejeune in NC. It took decades to admit there was a problem and more time to get the restitution. Decades is not an exaggeration.

I get tired of people who like to tout how hawkish they are but won’t help veterans when they get home. Politicians are OK funding battles but not the aftermath. They will say thank you for your service, but you are on your own when you get back. I fully recognize that Democrats are not perfect, but the GOP makes a great deal about being pro-military. To be honest, with respect to its troops, I do not see it. Neither should the veterans.

https://nypost.com/2022/07/29/jon-stewart-blasts-gop-after-senate-blocks-veteran-burn-pit-bill/

Top of mind issues that aren’t

Issues that need to be top of mind aren’t being discussed because we would rather talk about more exaggerated and contrived issues.

The global water crisis lives here, especially in drought prone areas like the Southwest United States, which is running dangerously low on water. Climate change only makes matters worse. And, this is even before we speak of the lead water pipe structures which have their own set of toxic issues as in Flint, Michigan.

Miami is the most at risk city in the world for encroaching sea levels due to climate change, but the governor calls more dramatic solutions liberal based ideas. Miami has built right to the coast and the limestone guarding the largest aquifer is porous. The fact the number of sunny days flooding has increased with sea water coming up through the street drains in Miami Beach should give people pause. Call me crazy, but when you are surrounded on three sides by sea water as Florida is, climate change should be a huge issue.

Toxins in our environment due to manufacturing run off of chemicals or middle of the night storage elsewhere are causing bell weather cancers years later. The water at Camp Lejeune in NC has been killing and making Marines, their spouses and their children sick for decades and yet we are still screwing around with a decision. Thank you for your service, just don’t drink the water. Recent stories on environmental cancers from Teflon and Round-up chemicals also continue to get press.

Dr. Sandra Steingraber, an ecologist, biologist, author and speaker (who has testified to Congress and the EU Parliament), spoke at an event I attended. She noted our tests are designed for a 50 year-old man, but we really should be testing for children. Our children have lungs and brains that are not fully developed, they have lesser body weight and are closer to the ground, they mouth breath more and they touch things more and put their hands in their mouths. They are easy targets for toxins to poison them.

I want people to remember her words. She added some hope, though. When we act in a serious manner we can fix things. She used the example of the Rabies vaccine, as she and her son were exposed. Rabies is a horrible way to die and it only takes a bite. But, we long ago created a series of vaccines that prevent Rabies, even if exposed. We learned and acted. She said that is a lesson that we should follow on dealing with other environmental issues – learn and act whether it’s getting rid of arsenic on playground equipment, removing asbestos out of building materials or knowing how to handle PVC pipes in a closed environment.

People matter. Children matter. Short term profits matter less than human life. I would argue companies that aggressively act to fix things will do better with long term profits due to goodwill.* Let’s act like parents and grandparents in governing what is needed. Let’s shine a spotlight on legislators and business leaders who do not.

*Years ago, Dow Chemical had a huge chemical spill in India. Because of their reputation as a good community citizen and by acting quickly to fix things, the long-term profits of the company did not suffer. The same held true with Johnson and Johnson, the makers of Tylenol after product tampering incidents killed some people. They acted quickly to fix things and we now have tamper identifying bottles.

Heinous things going on in Ukraine

Two news reports out of Ukraine the last two days disturbed me. The first was on CBS’ “60 Minutes” and the second was on the regular newscast of BBC World News America. I will not go into detail, just highlight the gist of these heinous things.

The news of the Russian troops Bucha Massacre has already hit the news. But, on CBS this past Sunday, we saw President Zelenskyy touring the area with tears and anger on his face. Vladimir Putin says he is not targeting civilians. Like most of what Putin says, that is not to believed. Zelenskyy notes that downed Russian pilots have been found with maps of civilian targets. Putin was trained as a KGB agent in the art of disinformation. That speaks volumes.

The second news piece was of the raping and killing of Ukrainian women by Russian soldiers. It was not unusual for the husband to be killed while the wife was being raped in a house next door. It was not unusual for the wife to be killed after being raped, sometimes with her throat slit. I am not saying all Russian troops are doing this, nor are those telling the stories. One woman said some of the troops are bad, some are good and some are evil. The acts, though, are heinoous.

Followers take on the personality of its leaders. If the leaders support, tolerate or look the other way, the soldiers can do heinous things. Targeting civilians, especially hospitals, is criminal in my view. History shows that civilian sites sometimes got bombed by accident, but the magnitude and extent of the bombing in this case, reveals an amoral and malevolent autocrat at the top of the heap condoning, if not supporting the action.

Let me also note I am not too keen on American opinion hosts and conspiracy parrots helping to whitewash what is going on here. That includes the recurringly untruthful former president, who admires the amoral and malevolent autocrat. Why is a question that should be asked? Of course, I am not too keen on these folks, in general, as to me they are misusing their power to disinform and misinform. Like with Putin, take what these conspiracy parrots say with a grain of salt. Believing what folks like Trump, DeSantis, Greene, Cawthorn, Boehbert, Gosar, Carlson, Ingraham, Jones et al say is a fool’s errand. That is what I think.

Fox Reporters killed in Ukraine offer perspective

After the news earlier in the week that two people reporting for Fox News were killed in Ukraine, it should be a moment of clarity for some of their opinion colleagues back in the studio. Here is a letter I forwarded to my newspaper editorial section for consideration.

Per NPR, “A veteran video journalist for Fox News, Pierre Zakrzewski, and freelance journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova were killed outside Kyiv after the vehicle they were traveling in was struck by incoming fire on Monday, the network has announced.”

And, yet as they died seeking the truth, opinion hosts in the Fox News studio still spread pro-Putin disinformation. It dishonors the deceased when folks like Tucker Carlson and Brian Kilmeade purposefully spread propaganda that is being aired in Russia. People should not give credence to opinions disguised as news whether it is on MSNBC or Fox, but especially from these two opinion entertainers.

After I sent this, I did see where the Russian Foreign Minister applauded Fox News coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Coming from a country who is jailing people for dissenting views on the invasion, that is truly false praise. Former President Ronald Reagan is turning over in his grave at this point.

Over 13,000 Russian anti-war protestors now arrested

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/more-than-13-000-anti-war-protesters-arrested-in-russia/ar-AAUNN3r?ocid=msedgntp

In the above article, “…according to protest monitoring group OVD-Info…The group found that 13,022 protesters have been detained in 147 cities across Russia.

…This comes as Russia’s assault on Ukraine is in its second week. In addition to arresting protesters, Russia has cracked down on social media platforms and the press amid the ongoing invasion. The country has blocked access to Facebook and Twitter, and last week President Vladimir Putin signed legislation under which people found to be spreading ‘fake news’ about Russian forces could face up to 15 years in prison.”

And, just this morning, the Russian spokesperson said the hospital with women and children they bomb yesterday really held Ukrainian nationalist fighters. There is a reason Putin does not want his people paying attention to news. The lies mount – from not invading to invading, from not target civilians to admitting that civilians have been targeted, from not using conscripted soldiers to admitting using such fighters and so on.

The brutal truth is Putin is invading a country that has a lot of kinfolk in Russia, a move which many Russians are not to keen about. It is hard to lie about that. But, the key question among many is if Putin’s story is so correct and Ukraine was a danger to Russia, why is he arresting Russian anti-war protestors and blocking access to news?

Russian oil company calls for end to Putin’s war

This interesting headline caught my attention yesterday. As you read this, please remember oil is the number one industry in Russia, accounting for a large hunk of their GDP.

Lukoil: Russian oil company calls for an end to Putin’s war by Charles Riley, CNN Business is an article with a major statement. The article can be linked to below, but here are a few salient paragraphs:

Russia’s second largest oil company has broken ranks with President Vladimir Putin.

Lukoil, which produces more than 2% of the world’s crude oil and employs over 100,000 people, has called for an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The company’s board of directors said in a statement to shareholders, staff and customers that it was ‘calling for the soonest termination of the armed conflict.

‘We express our sincere empathy for all victims, who are affected by this tragedy. We strongly support a lasting ceasefire and a settlement of problems through serious negotiations and diplomacy,’ the board added.”

Two comments. First, this is not just one CEO saying this. This statement comes from a Board of Directors, who would take a sober vote on such matters. Second, they would not make such a vote if they did not feel Putin was in the wrong. These folks know what they are risking, but seeing civilians in Ukraine being harmed, protests in Russia and global reaction to Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, they are making a statement to the world and too the Russian people.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/lukoil-russian-oil-company-calls-for-an-end-to-putin-s-war/ar-AAUBqH8?ocid=msedgntp

Ukraine invasion raises questions about democracy (an editorial worth the read)

The following is an editorial in The Clayton Tribune by a moderate conservative writer named Dick Yarborough. It was forwarded to me by a moderate liberal friend who is from that area and knows the author. I find it to be a very compelling and hope that it will reach many Americans of all political persuasions. Or, at least it should. Its title is noted above as the title of the post. (I apologize for the appearance of the piece as I pasted it in).

“I am going to break two
rules today. First, I am going
to leave the friendly confines
of Georgia and comment
on world events. Second,
I am going to talk about
world events that may have
changed drastically by the
time you read this. That is
because this column runs
around the state in different
places on different days but
I have a finite deadline in
which to get these thoughts
to you. Unfortunately, world
events don’t care about my
deadlines.
That brings me to Russia’s
invasion of Ukraine. As I
write this, Russian President
Vladimir V. Putin has ordered troops into that country in an unprovoked attack
while blithefully ignoring
protestations from most of
the rest of the world.
President Joe Biden and
our European allies have responded with economic sanctions including freezing the
overseas assets of wealthy
Russian families, blocking
international transactions
by some Russian banks,
suspending a gas pipeline
project to Germany and
threatening more sanctions
to come. Somehow, I have a
feeling Putin is not shaking
in his shuba. Undoubtedly,
he presumed this would happen. Reports say he is sitting
on a large amount of cash,
ready to ride out sanctions.
So, why the invasion and
why should we care? The answer is that Putin thinks we
are too weak to do anything
about Ukraine or any other
invasions he may choose to
initiate in the future. Not
militarily weak. We have
plenty of bombs and missiles.
We are perceived as weak
people in a form of government that is waning.
As the New York Times
observed recently, “Putin
and his inner circle believe
that liberal democracies are
in decline, a view that (President of the People’s Republic
of China) Xi Jinping and
other top Chinese officials
share.” That group also
includes Iran, Venezuela and
North Korea.
A study by the Economist
Intelligence Union in Great
Britain, shows that in 2020
only 8.4 percent of the world
population lives in a full
democracy, while 41 percent
live in a flawed democracy,
15 percent live in a hybrid regime and 35.6 percent live in
an authoritarian regime. In
short, democracy is indeed
in decline.
The U.S. is considered a
“flawed democracy.” We enjoy the right to vote and basic civil liberties but, among
other things, we have little
trust in our institutions,
including our government.
There is also a troubling
propensity to try and squelch
freedom of expression,
thanks to anonymous cowards who use social media in
an attempt to intimidate and
threaten those with whom
they disagree.
We are a flawed democracy
because we are a deeply-divided democracy, more concerned with our own self-interest than in the welfare of
each other and with seemingly little interest in coming
together. We are polarized
by race, political philosophy,
political correctness, age,
sex, religion, income, rural
vs. urban. The Economic
Intelligence Union says the
U.S. has “a degree of societal polarization that makes
consensus almost impossible to achieve.” No wonder
Putin, Xi Ping, Ali Khamenei
and other assorted tinhorns
think we are imploding in on
ourselves.
They see a bunch of pubescent millionaires playing
games that add no value to
our society while making a
big show of disrespecting our
nation’s flag and our National Anthem. And they are
treated as heroes by a segment of our population.
They see a group of outof-control zealots storm the
seat of our democracy like in
some Third World country,
vandalizing and looting and
assaulting law enforcement
officers because they didn’t
like the outcome of the presidential election. And they
are treated as heroes by a
segment of our population.
They see a segment of our
population obsessed with
destroying our past like
Taliban terrorists, forgetting
Pres. John F. Kennedy’s admonition, “Let us not seek to
fix the blame for the past. Let
us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
They see hyphenated
Americans, as if where we
came from is more important than where we are.
(When you see me hyphenate
“American,” you will know
an imposter got hold of this
space. I submit we are all
Americans, all the time. No
hyphens. Period.)
Our democratic way of
life is priceless and not to be
taken for granted. An earlier
president, John Adams said,
“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes,
exhausts, and murders itself.
There never was a democracy yet that did not commit
suicide.”
Disrespect our flag. Disrespect our Capitol. Disrespect
our country. Disrespect each
other. And watch our democracy commit suicide. The
autocrats are waiting.”

Whether one agrees with every statement made above, I find its theme and purpose something that we each should consider and conduct ourselves accordingly.

Wednesday wanderings in early March – Ukraine focused

It looks like a beautiful day here, but like many I am glued to the news of what is happening in Ukraine. As for here, last night all three of our adult children gathered with us and it was a delight to hear and participate in the conversation.

Here are a few wanderings for this first Wednesday in March.

-I read where China delegates are having conversation with Ukraine leaders. That has to stick in the craw of the malevolent acting autocrat in Moscow.

-I also read Trump’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton said Trump would not have stood in Putin’s way if he invaded Ukraine on Trump’s watch. I have no trouble believing that to be true, as Putin could steer Trump any way he wanted.

-The Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky is doing what a leader should do. He is right there with his people telling the Russians and their malevolent acting autocrat we will not back down. Ukraine may not prevail, but one has to admire Zelensky and his people’s moxie.

-I read that Russia may start defaulting on debts if the invasion takes too long. Long military campaigns cost money and that is money Russia does not have a lot to spare. The Russian people know this even though they are mostly too scared to go out with the tens of thousands protestors and say so given the 6,000 arrests.

-Again, the malevolent acting autocrat may prevail on the military side, but he has already lost big time. In the course of two weeks, he has managed to galvanize NATO and the EU and show to the world the kind of person he is. Future investment in his country will return at some point, but it may take longer this time.

-Finally, per my previous post, please listen to and watch people on the news and opinion shows who know what they are talking about. Former Moscow bureau chief for Fox Jennfier Griffin and Dr. Fiona Hill are two experts on Russia and are among a handful worth listening to. The last people to listen to are opinion hosts who are more entertainers than news people, especially when they are not known for being truthful.

As Senator Mitt Romney said on Sunday, supporting a leader of another country who is bent on taking freedoms away is not something to admire. We should be firmly against this kind of tyranny. Sadly, those who are so doing are acquiescing to a former president who admires that type of aggression and that kind of leader.

Fox Putin expert once again brutally fact checks other guests

In the article “Jennifer Griffin Once Again Brutally Fact-Checks a Pro-Putin Fox News Segment” by Justin Baragona of The Daily Beast, an actual expert that appears on Fox has been brutally correcting some of the inane commentary from so-called other experts. It is obvious from her tone, Jennifer Griffin has had enough with some of the disinformation that has been floated as opinion about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Here is the gist of some of her recent remarks from the article:

“’I feel like I need to correct some of the things that Col. Douglas MacGregor said, and I’m not sure that 10 minutes is enough time to do so because there were so many distortions in what he just said,’ the veteran reporter flatly stated, adding that MacGregor sounded like an “apologist” for Putin.

‘I think the world has seen what Putin is capable of,’ she continued. ‘To blame NATO membership for what we’ve seen Putin unleash, we have seen his own words that he is talking in czarist terms, from a 19th-century view of imperial Russia, so what he just said was so distorted that I do feel our audience needs to know the truth.’

Griffin further explained that she has long tracked Putin’s rise throughout her career, pointing out how she started at Fox News by working in its Moscow bureau. Adding that the Russian leader has been laying the groundwork for imperial expansion for decades, she then brought up MacGregor’s own record with the Trump administration.

‘The kind of appeasement talk that Col. MacGregor, who should know better—when he was in government, he was the one who was advising Trump to pull all troops out of Germany,’ Griffin said. ‘That projection of weakness is what made Putin think he could move into a sovereign country like Ukraine.’

(Former Congressman Trey) Gowdy (also on the show), for his part, said he was ‘surprised’ by MacGregor’s remarks and that he found his ‘take on it stunning and disappointing.‘”

What frustrates me is these folks are trying to paint a picture with disinformation to blame failures on the current president. Putin is shrewd so he will take advantage of anything to gain what he wants. Showing weakness and acquiescing to Putin plays into his hands. Putin is a bully. And, the only way to beat a bully is to stand up to them. Ukraine should be applauded for so doing.

Griffin gets this. So, does Dr. Fiona Hill who is a Russian expert who testified at the first Trump impeachment trial where Trump tried to extort the Ukraine president trading guns for favors. Rewriting history does not solve problems.

Saturday in the park – a few grumbles while I walk

I have shared before that I like to cogitate as a I walk. Often, this time permits me to organize a few thoughts for a post, but it also allows me to have fictional arguments with people who are not present that pay attention to spurious news sources. It is when those arguments become aloud that other folks give me more space. Fortunately, some may think I am on the phone.

I have a few grumbles in mind that I want to share:

-Disenfranchised groups of people do not often have voices at the table; this is a key reason I advocate for those in need. What bothers me most is when these folks are harmed by folks who are basing decisions more off perceptions or sound bites than truth. 900,000 Americans have died because of a poor response due to COVID, and yet some elected officials have made it political because it is easier to win votes posturing than to fix the problem. We also have a prison system industrial complex that is part of a new Jim Crow era where far more inmates are non-whites who committed the same crimes as whites that went free.

-What also bothers me is when people are harmed or killed because of decisions made by so-called leaders. Folks in the Ukraine are dying because of Vladimir Putin’s ego and the fact Russia’s struggling economy is largely based on fossil fuel exports. Like he has done before, Putin has invented a reason to invade another country. And, take it to the bank, he will do it again making up a similar reason. Putin plays a long game, while the western leaders play a short one; being an autocratic leader, he does not trouble himself with how Russians react, as he will just have opposition “handled.” Over 1,700 anti-war protestors were jailed in Russia earlier this week.

-Americans and Brits should not be too pompous about involving ourselves in other countries, as our histories have been based on that very fact. The US helped Iran’s military overturn an elected leader in 1953 to establish the Shah of Iran – this is a key reason Iranians do not trust us. And, the US invaded Iraq under false pretenses with the guise of “Weapons of Mass Destruction” and we involved the UK and other allies. A UK study came to the conclusion that the US president George Bush and UK prime minister Tony Blair misled UK citizens. Of course, the British Empire was built based on imperialism.

-Finally, not knowing or understanding history leads us to make decisions that are repeats of earlier bad decisions. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, who had been in the Defense department and is a Vietnam veteran, stood up in the Senate and said if we invade Iraq, be prepared to stay there for thirty years. That was about twenty years ago, and we are still there. Also, not planning to fight an invasive war, not defining what success looked like, not defining an exit strategy, etc. leads to disastrous results. No foreign army has won in Afghanistan – ever. The terrain and tribal nature of the country do not permit control. This is why the soldiers and sailors invented a term that applies to poor planning – it begins with “cluster” and ends with a derogatory term for intercourse.

The common people are the ones who get hurt by misinformed and egotistical leaders. The line from the movie “Troy” comes to mind to explain this in the context of war. “War is old men talking and young men dying.” That includes women as well. It also goes beyond wars.