The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘the military’ Category

DEFENDING YOUR LIFE

On this Veteran’s Day, all Americans should offer a prayer of gratitude for those brave men and women who have given of themselves by serving in our armed forces.  They are the defenders of our country and fulfill one of the most fundamental Constitutional responsibilities conferred by the Founding Fathers on the Federal government – the protection of the nation from foreign intruders.

Many have fallen in the task.  Many more have returned home shattered in body or mind by their service.  Most have never heard those of us who have not served say so much as, “Thank you for your service.”  Almost all of us take them and their role in protecting the nation for granted, and that is a terrible shame.

As a child growing up I had an image of the armed forces that was pretty much formed by television.  Phil Silvers as Sgt. Bilko, Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle and, of course, the indomitable Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway in “McHale’s Navy” presented us with a light-hearted look at our men in uniform.  Perhaps we needed to laugh to distract us from the serious business in which they were actually involved.

Several days ago I saw an interview with R. Lee Ermey, better known as “Gunny” who is a retired Marine turned actor.  You might remember him for his portrayal as the hard-nosed DI from the 1987 movie, “Full Metal Jacket,” the story of a platoon’s training during the Vietnam War.

The interviewer asked him, “What do you consider the biggest problem that America is facing?”   Ermey responded, “There are too many people who are willing to sit around and collect a paycheck from the government rather than go out and earn one on their own.”  He’s on to something there.

One of the most touted “benefits” of Obamacare is that people will supposedly be able to have their insurance “subsidized,” that is if they don’t make too much or too little money.  Those who are doing well and contributing to the economy will get nothing.  Those who do nothing and feed at the public trough will get Medicaid – which provides next to nothing.

Our politicians in Washington talk about subsidies as though they were the children of Israel, wandering around the desert and a merciful God miraculously provides them with manna.  But we all know the truth – that is that subsidies are merely a way for those who do not have to get something from those who have earned what they have.  It would be fairer to refer to this as a tax rather than a subsidy.  And, of course, if the “tax” is insufficient to cover the subsidies we will just put the deficit on our National Credit Card balance.

Ermey was a fortunate man.  He recounted that when he finished his time in the Marine Corps he was sitting around the house when his father said, “If you plan on sitting on your duff you’re mistaken.  Go out and earn your keep.”  And he did.  As he explained it, he got a “lousy” job and then got a second one that was just as bad.  But he had the dignity of working and paying his own way.  And those lousy jobs led to better ones and then others that were still better.

It’s been forty years since we ended conscripted military service.  During that time the number of Americans on some form of public assistance has skyrocketed.  Some of those who receive supplemental food assistance and are the beneficiaries of other welfare programs have become enrolled as a result of the lackluster economy.  For others it is the inevitable result of family tradition.

Perhaps it’s time that we re-thought our position on having an all-volunteer armed forces.  Instead of encouraging a life of indolence, would we not be doing them and society as a whole a favor by going to our eighteen year old welfare recipients and telling them, we want you to, “Be – All that you can be.”  The discipline and skills that they would learn in a military environment would serve them well for the rest of their lives.  And the taxpayers would actually get a return on their investment.

Who knows, the mere suggestion of having to spend a few years in the armed forces might actually get a few of them “off their duffs” and out in the workplace.  And that would be a good thing in and of itself.  Whether that actually happens will, of course, be up to Congress and the Commander in Chief.

Since there is such a high correlation between welfare recipients and crime, particularly in our inner cities, we might just transform some of these young men from their present direction of threatening your life to defending it.  And for that, all of America would be grateful.

OUR VETERANS GIVE US INSIGHT INTO HOW GOVERNMENT “HEALTHCARE” WILL WORK

When I was a kid I was involved in a school project.  We made lanyards which we sent to those who were returning veterans from the Korean War (or Police Action if you prefer).  Our small school made and sent hundreds of these as Christmas presents to our returning soldiers, many of whom had been severely wounded and were being treated at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

I remember that all of us who volunteered (which incidentally was 100% of my class) felt really good about doing this.  We were too young to have a really clear understanding of all that was involved in the word “war” but we were told by our teachers that soldiers were people who fought and sometimes died to protect our country from its enemies.  The lanyards that we made were meant to show those who had fought and been wounded that we appreciated their sacrifices.

When I worked on my lanyards I remember that I wanted them to be perfect.  The amount of tension that I applied in twisting and braiding had to be precise because this was going to someone special – someone whom I did not know and would never meet.  I wanted to have as much pride in my work as they had shown in theirs.

Walter Reed Army Hospital is still a major source of treatment for those who have returned from our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It treats many of those who are the most severely wounded – double and triple amputees.  The course of treatment, because of the severity of the injuries, sometimes takes two years or more.

Most of these soldiers are housed in Building 62 of the hospital and get their meals at the “Warrior Café” within that building.  But the café has been closed – due to “legal issues” and now these soldiers have to wheel themselves to the next closest eating facility – one half mile away in the complex.  A one mile round trip three times a day for people in a wheel chair or who have to walk there on prosthetic limbs.

After protests from the families of these soldier-patients about the burden this creates, the hospital administration, notwithstanding the “legal issues” surrounding the eating facility, have decided to reopen the café.  Good decision.

If this is the way we treat those who have made tremendous sacrifice for the country, what might the average person expect when government controls our healthcare?

IS THE RIGHT MAN ON TRIAL?

By now you know, or at least should, that Maj. Nidal Hasan is being tried for his involvement in murdering thirteen soldiers and an unborn child at Ft.. Hood.  After four years of continuing to collect his salary (approaching $300,000 that we have paid him); preparation of his special halal meals – at four times the cost of what we spend to feed those who guard him; paying for his medical expenses; and the cost of about $5 MM to prepare for his trial, we taxpayers have run up a small tab.

Of course, this is merely chump change in view of the big picture that has all of us on the hook for nearly $17 Billion.

Over the weekend another story broke – this time in Michigan.  Apparently an oncologist/hematologist by the name of Dr. Farid Fata  is accused of bilking Medicare out of $35 MM for services which he never provided.  (The amount of fraud could have gotten even bigger but because of the lack of speed with which Medicare pays its providers, another $50 MM had not been sent out to the good doctor).  There is something to be said for government inefficiency.

Now what struck me was the similarity between these two men.  They are both doctors – in Hasan’s case a psychiatrist.  They are both of Middle Eastern ethnicity.  And they appear, at least to my untrained eye, to look as though they might be twins.  Below are pictures of the two – in Hasan’s case the one shown was taken before the Army decided that, not to offend his Muslim sensitivities and have him conform to the Army’s clean-shaven standards, they would allow him to grow a beard.

hasan

Dr. Farid Fata

Well, maybe it’s just me.  You know, all those Middle Easterners look alike to me.  But I was thinking that in what appears to be a defense strategy on Maj. Hasan’s part of essentially not having a defense, he might pull a ringer out of his bag and claim to be Dr. Fata.

In today’s America, anything is possible – and likely to happen.

DO YOU REMEMBER FORT HOOD?

It’s nearly four years since the November 5, 2009 shooting spree at Ft. Hood which left 13 people dead and 32 more injured.  The sole suspect in what is the worst incident on a U. S. military base in history is one Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan who himself was injured and is now paralyzed from the waist down.

Maj. Hasan was a psychiatrist assigned to the base and has admitted that he was responsible but that his actions were justified.  In his theory, he was “protecting the lives of others” – specifically the sworn enemies of the United States and everyone else left in the world who is civilized – the Taliban.

At the time the shooting took place, Sen. Joe Lieberman described this as  “the worst act of terrorism since 9/11.”  The senator, as you may know, is not known for clinging to what might be described as “right wing” positions – having amassed a record as one of the most liberal senators in the upper chamber.

Notwithstanding the good senator’s contentions, the Department of Defense classified the incident as a matter of “workplace violence.”  That it was indeed violent is beyond dispute.

The victims:

Michael Grant Cahill, Civilian

MAJ. Libardo Eduardo Caraveo

SSGT. Justin Michael DeCrow

CPT. John P. Gaffney

SPEC. Frederick Greene

SPEC. Jason Dean Hunt

SSGT. Amy Sue Krueger

PFC. Aaron Thomas Nemelka

PFC. Michael S. Pearson

CPT. Russell Gilber Seager

PFC. Francheska Velez (Pregnant when killed; the fetus also died)

LT. COL. Juanita L. Warman

PFC.  Kham See Xiong

So after four, nearly four years, the jury consisting of 13 Army officers have been selected and the trial is finally set to commence on August 6, 2013.  That should be good news to the American people who want justice in this matter – and who, incidentally, have been paying the accused’s $80,000 a year Army salary ever since he went out to bring Taliban-style “law and order” to the Army post.

Apparently this fact came to the attention of Congress.  This week a bill was introduced which would stop the payment of any military who are accused either of a capital offense or of sexual misconduct until after their case was adjudicated.  Had this law been in place for our military personnel (as it is for those who hold civilian positions within the military), the taxpayers would be about $300,000 less in debt.

In addition to Hasan’s salary, the Army has spent approximately an additional $4,000,000 providing him legal advice (he’s representing himself in the trial) and for other matters including his housing, medical care and for administrative expenses.

Now in the ultimate scheme of things, $4.3 MM is not a huge sum of money by government standards.  But the sad part of this is that because the Department of Defense classified this as “workplace violence,” the families of the victims have not received either medical or pension benefits to which they otherwise would be entitled.

I’ll be curious to see how much coverage of this trial is presented to us by the media.  I know that I, for one, will be watching to see the outcome of not only the trial but whether we do the right thing and retroactively pay benefits to the families of the victims.

They say that “Justice is blind.”  The Ft. Hood massacre suggests that she may also be incurably stupid.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND SOCIAL INJUSTICE

There is no question that the social media have become an influential means of communicating.  I have a Facebook account – at least I’m pretty sure that I do – because I keep getting emails on a daily basis telling me that I have one message.  Now if I could only remember the password I used to set it up, I might just check in to see who’s trying to reach me.  But that seems like more work than its worth.

While my attitude might be an anomaly in this day and age, I realize that there are others (a great number of others), who feel as dependent on their Facebook accounts as a drug addict does on his next fix.  They are probably a lot more savvy than I – and are certainly a lot younger.

Now if you Facebook or tweet, you should understand that people are going to see what you post.  After all, isn’t that the reason for being on those sites in the first place?  So it should have come as no surprise when a few days ago a teenager in the far north Chicago suburb of Zion was apprehended after he tweeted the following:

“If Zimmerman leaves free Imma shoot everybody in Zion causing a mass homicide, an I’ll git away wit it just like Zimmerman.”

Currently charged with a felony for this bit of communication, I suspect that if you polled everyone in the country, at least 20% of us would agree that his apprehension by law enforcement was the appropriate response.

But I would like to bring to your attention another bit of communication which got someone in trouble.  This time it was Facebook which was the platform of choice.  Perhaps you are familiar with the story of the young, former Marine who got in a whole mess of trouble because he expressed his views on how the government of the United States was being run and suggested that some of Washington’s finest “should be arrested.”  His name is Brandon Raub and the story goes back to August of last year.

Mr. Raub suggested that the government was lying about the events of 9/11 (the first one).  He was also critical of the government’s increasingly obvious circumvention of the Constitution.

Mr. Raub served honorably two tours of duty with the Marine Corps – one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq and was honorably discharged from the Corps.  He is thought of as a good citizen in his Virginia community and owns and operates a small business there.

On the morning of August 16, 2012, some FBI agents came to his door.  They wanted to speak with him and they did converse with him through the screen door.  Mr. Raub, wearing only some short pants, was persuaded to come outside and was almost immediately handcuffed.  The agents refused to allow him to put on any additional clothing.  He was taken to a hospital for “psychiatric evaluation” and was ordered by a judge to remain there for a 30 day observation period.

What follows is a telephone conversation with a local radio host and Brandon Raub while he was still being “observed” in the hospital.  You be the judge of how sane or insane he sounds:

Mr. Raub was released from the hospital where he was held against his will beofre the full 30 day evaluation period, thanks to the efforts of his attorney.  But under Virginia law, the provisions for having someone committed for “mental observation” are loose enough that about 20,000 people in the state have that happen to them each year.

I suspect that most of these detentions occur because relatives, friends or neighbors see some erratic behavior and are concerned both for the individual as well as for those with whom he or she might come in contact.  But that was not the situation in Mr. Raub’s case.

His neighbors consider him a good neighbor, always willing to help out and he is thought of as an asset to the community.  So who “turned him in?”

My guess, and it is only a guess, is that with the now-admitted spying on U. S. citizens and others in this country by the NSA, it might well be that Mr. Raub’s comments were picked up by that agency and they initiated his arrest.  That is also what Mr. Raub thinks.  And subsequent to this event, we do know that the IRS profiled and held up the exemption applications of hundreds of Tea Party organizations.

It should be clear, though disturbing to anyone who wants to think about it logically, that this administration sees pursuing the government’s agenda supercedes the rights of the individual.

It does give one pause and make one wonder if anyone in the administration has read the First Amendment to the Constitution – or can comprehend it – or most importantly, is willing to uphold it as they swore to do.

As I reflect on all of this, I think I better try to recover my Facebook password and check out that lone message which was left for me.  It might just be the government letting me know that, “they’re here to help me.”

AN AMERICAN DEATH

Jeb was a college friend of mine.  It’s hard to believe that 45 years have passed since he was sent to Vietnam and died there, performing his duties in the Army as a medic.  He was a Conscientious Objector.

The two of us met in a History of Western Civilization class and would frequently study together.  He was from Rhode Island, one of two children from a small family who belonged to The Society of Friends or, as most of us know them, Quakers.  He was one of the most gentle, kind and thoughtful men I ever met, a man who truly lived his brief life in a spirit of peace, caring and non-violence.

When Jeb graduated he was drafted, despite his Conscientious Objector convictions.  He was not one who chose to flee to Canada and was willing to do his part in our terribly misguided war effort, but he was not willing to do that while holding a gun – and that is how he ended up in the Medical Corps.  The fatalities among medics ran higher than for your typical armed soldier – and he knew that.

The War in Vietnam divided the country in the 1960’s.  It was one issue on which virtually everyone had a point of view – whether that was one which supported our military actions or one which opposed our involvement and escalating our efforts there.  What started as a grumbling from our college students escalated to a roar as more young Americans died and their mourning siblings and parents started writing letters to Congress and took their places in the swelling ranks of those who marched in protest.

Perhaps one of the starkest contrasts between then and now is that our print and television media had their own points of view on the subject.  Certain papers actively advocated our efforts in Southeast Asia and others as vehemently opposed them.  The same was true for commentators who reported the day’s events in Vietnam.  We had not yet grown accustomed to the “mind meld” in which our reporters had abdicated their responsibility as journalists, had accepted an official government version of “the truth” and dutifully repeated it for its audience.

And there was one even more significant difference between those times and these.  Underpinning this sometimes heated and angry debate, all of us understood that we had the right to our opinion because of the First Amendment to the Constitution and, protected by this governing document, could say just exactly what was on our mind.  It was precisely because of that document which The New York Times considers “antiquated” and should be abolished, that what began as the song of a small but vocal minority became the theme song for the country and the choir swelled to include the majority of Americans.

In many ways, I attribute my many years of non-gun ownership to the gentle example my friend Jeb set for me.  In many respects, his and my philosophies were identical.  I was not tempted to change my position that violence solves nothing even after I had been criminally mugged by three thugs and beaten unconscious and spent five days in the hospital recovering from a concussion.  By the way, they were able to carry out their violent act while threatening me not with guns but with switchblades.

So why has my position on this issue of guns and one’s right to own them, or perhaps more correctly one’s responsibility to own them, evolved?  Precisely because of the advocacy of The New York Times that we should abandon or, at the very least, modify our ancient relic of a Constitution to reflect today’s world.

There is little doubt in my mind that when the Constitution was adopted there were violent people in this country and throughout the world.  That has not changed.  But if there is no longer any protection for the voices of those in the minority to be heard, then history has shown that the majority, engorged on its own popularity, will have little difficulty suppressing those who have a different viewpoint from their own.

And if, as seems to be the case, they are successful in electing a government which shares their view that dissent is disloyalty, then those conscientious few who wish to hold on to their individual freedoms and their souls had best be prepared and be willing to do battle.

I wish that my friend Jeb had not died in Vietnam.  He was a source of great insight and wisdom and counsel – and I am sorry that I cannot ask him for his guidance.  But he lived his life and gave it up because of something he considered the essence of being a human being – living according to principle.  And I guess that is, in itself, sufficient guidance.  And now it is our turn.

PLEASE, SIR. I WANT … MORE

The title of this post is taken from the lines in one of the opening songs in the musical, “Oliver,” the play based on Charles Dickens’ immortal work, “Oliver Twist.”  The young waif politely asks his master for a little additional gruel as he is still hungry after receiving his small ration of food at the workhouse in which he has found himself.  He is rebuffed for his display of ingratitude.

This morning as I was debating  several ideas for a post, I opened an email from a friend which was sitting in my in-box.  Normally, I would have read it yesterday but I had an exhausting day and actually went to bed early.  So I didn’t see this until this morning.  It was a great way to start my day, and I hope whatever time of day you view it you will get a lift of spirit as I did.

In a world in which it seems that there are a lot of takers – it’s uplifting to know that there are a few unselfish people left who are still givers.  I would like to offer my thanks to them for keeping the light of decency and gratitude lit.

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