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We are a few month out from the scandal that rocked the VA.  The legislation that would have pumped an additional $30 Billion into the VA to help alleviate the waiting times by veterans seeking treatment from private doctors is stalled in Congress.  So what else is new.  The administration has also asked for an additional $18 Billion so the VA can hire more doctors, nurses, medical professionals, and lease new facilities to reduce overcrowding.

Of course there are a lot of reasons that this legislation has bogged down.  One big reason is that it is an election year, and no one wants to be blamed for its failure.  But, on the other side of the coin, no Republican wants the administration to be able to take credit for helping to fix a real problem either.  That means, the Republicans in the Senate have tried to introduce “amendments” to the bill that would certainly doom it.  For example, they want an amendment to put more sanctions on Iran.  Apparently, they don’t believe that Iran is negotiating faithfully.  Even if that is true, how does that help our veterans getting the help they need.

Obviously, this is simply a ploy by the Republicans in the Senate to kill a needed bill that will help the millions of veterans who need the help.  They just don’t want to come out in an election year and say as much.  Once veterans are no longer useful on the battlefield, they become expendable.  That has been the case since the country was founded.

The one part of the fight I find completely detestable is the argument that “it needs to be paid for”.  Really?  We sent millions of our finest young men and women into war, without paying for it, and now we say that those same people who desperately need our help can’t get it unless it is “paid for”.  Senator Lindsey Graham is one of the leading critics of this “paid for” mantra.

Okay, how about this for your thought Mr. Graham.  The veterans have already paid for the aid they need.  They paid for it with their lives, blood, and sanity!  They are the real patriots who stood by this country in time of trouble.  They are the ones who put everything on the line for their country.  How dare any politician who has sat safely in the capital even dream of using the words it must be “paid for” when it comes to veteran benefits?

Using comments like that is nothing more than a slap in the face to every man and women who has served this country!  Anyone using those words should resign their seat in the Congress.  It is more than shameful.

So, here is a way to “pay for” the aid our brothers and sisters need.  Let’s tax all of the money corporations have hidden overseas for the purpose of not paying taxes.  With the estimated trillions of dollars these corporations have hidden overseas, we could easily pay for these necessary benefits with a simple 10% tax on all of that money!

But, no, the Republicans won’t bite the hands that feed them.  They would rather treat the veterans like second-class citizens who, in their thinking are no better than the so-called 47 per centers.  In their minds, veterans who need the help the VA can provide them are merely seeking handouts from “uncle sugar”.

It is time for Congress to stop mistreating our veterans.  It is time for them to do their job!  I call on every veteran to make it to the polls this November and vote out anyone who is even trying to stop this bill.  Our veterans deserve better from our representatives.

Sunday marked the 45th anniversary of man landing on the moon.  On July 10, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped from the lunar module onto the surface of the moon with those famous words: “One small step for man.  One giant leap for mankind”.  But, did you ever wonder what would have happened in the 1960s if Ken Ham and his ilk had political power?  We probably would not have landed on the moon.

Ken Ham, leader of Answers in Genesis has a problem with space exploration.  He thinks we are wasting money trying to discover if other intelligent life is out there.  He wrote on Sunday “I’m shocked at the countless hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent over the years in the desperate and fruitless search for extraterrestrial life. “

He went on to say “Of course, secularists are desperate to find life in outer space, as they believe that would provide evidence that life can evolve in different locations and given the supposed right conditions!  The search for extraterrestrial life is really driven by man’s rebellion against God in a desperate attempt to supposedly prove evolution!”

He has been known to howl at the moon on several occasions when it comes to science.  See, he doesn’t believe that science actually exists.  He doesn’t believe anything that he cannot find in the bible, which he considers to be a scientific tome.  But, that doesn’t keep him from coming up with different interpretations of what he is reading than other religious scholars.

He even goes on a rant that even if there were alien beings in the universe, they are all doomed to hell.  His interpretation of the bible is justified in his own words.

And I do believe there can’t be other intelligent beings in outer space because of the meaning of the gospel. You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation. One day, the whole universe will be judged by fire, and there will be a new heavens and earth. God’s Son stepped into history to be Jesus Christ, the “Godman,” to be our relative, and to be the perfect sacrifice for sin—the Savior of mankind.

Jesus did not become the “GodKlingon” or the “GodMartian”!  Only descendants of Adam can be saved.  God’s Son remains the “Godman” as our Savior.  In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we see the Father through the Son (and we see the Son through His Word).  To suggest that aliens could respond to the gospel is just totally wrong.

An understanding of the gospel makes it clear that salvation through Christ is only for the Adamic race—human beings who are all descendants of Adam.

So, once again we find Ken Ham making up his own beliefs.  This is the kind of thinking that would have stopped JFK from getting the financial support for his quest to land a man on the moon.  We all know from history, that Kennedy didn’t give a damn about the science of landing a man on the moon.  He only wanted to beat the Russians there.  It was more of a political show than a scientific show.

But, the science that came out of landing a man on the moon has had a tremendous effect on our lives.  I am still in wonder that the computers used to land a man on the moon had less computing power than a pocket calculator does today.  That is making the most out of what you have.  But, Mr. Ham doesn’t think any of that is necessary.  He wants to stop further space exploration because he considers it an affront to his god.

He even goes on to say that we must be alone in the universe.

The Bible, in sharp contrast to the secular worldview, teaches that earth was specially created, that it is unique and the focus of God’s attention (Isaiah 66:1 and Psalm 115:16). Life did not evolve but was specially created by God, as Genesis clearly teaches. Christians certainly shouldn’t expect alien life to be cropping up across the universe.

Now the Bible doesn’t say whether there is or is not animal or plant life in outer space.  I certainly suspect not. The Earth was created for human life. And the sun and moon  were created for signs and our seasons—and to declare the glory of God.

I don’t know if there is intelligent life on other planets.  Statistically, the probability exists that there is.  I don’t doubt that there probably is life out there, but, until we have proof of intelligent life on other planets, I will keep an open mind.  I refuse to live in a fantasy world where one book seems to have all the answers.  Nor, do I believe that if that book doesn’t directly address a question, I can make up whatever I want it to say.

Ken Ham and his Answers in Genesis group are part of the larger problem humanity faces.  These are people who refuse to look at the universe and think what a wonderful and mysterious place it is.  Whether you believe in a god or not, the universe is a splendid place.  We must continue to explore whatever is out there.  Unlike the closed mind society of the Cult, we are creatures of inquisitiveness.  That is what makes us what we are.  There are questions.  We are bound to discover the answers.

You just can’t stop the images from flooding into your mind.  The death and destruction.  The faces of fallen friends.  The faces of the women and children killed.  You see danger behind every tree or wall or fence.  The fear grows with every step you take.  Your eyes are glancing from side to side looking for the danger.  You are on edge.

That isn’t taking place in Iraq or Afghanistan or even Vietnam.  It is happening as you take a walk down your street in your hometown.  Something triggered all of the memories of those conflicts.  Sometimes it isn’t even war that brings these memories.  It is natural disasters or plane crashes or even boating accidents you worked.  Something that you have witnessed while serving is suddenly flooding back into your conscious memory.

Even after you realize you are home, the dread lingers.  The guilt of having survived while others were not so lucky.  The thought of your friends killed while you lived haunt you.  Survivor’s guilt is what they call it.  It is real.  It is affecting everything you do.  It affects your ability to sleep or work or even laugh.  It affects every fiber of your existence.

You begin to feel like “damaged goods”.  You begin to feel like you aren’t worthy of living anymore.  You begin to feel like your family don’t want you around in “polite” company anymore.  You begin to shrink from society and shelter yourself away from others, including those who love you.  You never fully realize what is going on.  You think that somehow you are the cause of the problem.

Far too many times, you settle these internal conflicts with what you believe to be the only answer that is best for all.  You commit suicide.

That is just a very brief and incomplete example of what is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  PTSD affects millions of our veterans everyday.  It is something that haunts memories and lives.  There are many ways veterans cope with PTSD and most of them are self-destructive.  Many will seek help from the VA.  Others too often turn to alcohol or drugs.  Anything that will “make me feel better” at least for a while.  But, they don’t help, they make things worse.

According to statistics, 22 veterans commit suicide every day!  That is 154 veteran suicides every week or 8000 per year.  Why, you ask, don’t these troubled souls get the help they need?  That is a fair question.  Many don’t get the help they need because they don’t fully understand what is happening to them.  Many don’t seek help because they think it is admitting a flaw in their personality.  Real vets don’t feel this way, they think.

Most try to cope with PTSD by themselves.  As a result, they don’t seek the help they need, and eventually push their families aside.  Especially when their family tries to convince them to seek help.  Psychological problems are difficult for anyone to accept.  People with psychological problems have been shunned by society for hundreds of years.  Besides, they don’t need help because they are “heroes”!  Heroes don’t need to be helped.  They are above all of these problems.

How do they know they are heroes?  Because every single day, someone is calling them a hero.  Every single day they hear the term used like “we want to thank all of our heroes for their service”.  In their own minds they start to become mythical.  They buy into the hype and never get the help they need.

That is how a simple word “hero” can affect people.  I know that everyone who uses the word thinks they are paying a compliment to those who have served.  They have risked everything in defense of our country.  They deserve the compliment.  But, sometimes, the simple word “hero” actually de-humanizes veterans.  It puts them on a pedestal that they are afraid of falling off.  They start to believe that if they seek help, they will no longer be a “hero”.  Heroes don’t have flaws.  They suck it up and move on.

We need to see our veterans for what they really are.  They are humans who served our country in some of the most god-awfull circumstances.  They have seen things that most people will never see.  They have lost some of their friends.  They have seen carnage we don’t want anyone to see.  It will affect them!  It will change them!  It will haunt them!

When people start using words like “hero” to describe our veterans, they don’t think about what that may mean.  They don’t understand that it can taken an excuse to “thank you” and then forget you.  No one means to be like that.  No one means to forget veterans.  But, all too often it happens.

I know very few veterans who need hero-worship.  We need respect.  We need jobs.  We need to take care of our families when we finally hang up the uniform.  We simply need to be a “normal” part of society.   What we do not need is to be called a “hero” and then forgotten.

 

As we look around the world, we see very troubled times.  We see wars and dissatisfaction.  There is civil war in Iraq.  There is civil war in Syria.  There is civil war in Ukraine.  There is civil war in many countries in Africa.  The Israelis and Hamas are warring again.  This is nothing new.  There have been wars among people since we first learned how to use a club as a weapon to kill someone else.

At first, wars were fought over hunting grounds.  Then they turned to agriculture and water areas.  As man evolved, war became more personal.  Power was the name of the game.  Empires needed to be built and war was the best way to achieve that.  As we evolved more, gods became the rallying cry.  In every civilization, the gods of one people were considered superior to the gods of another.  That led to the justification that we can kill in the name of our gods.

That justification has remained right up to today.  “God is on our side” is the rallying cry to justify waging war against another culture with different religious beliefs.  Now, all wars are not based purely on religion.  They are mostly based on power.  Yet, we justify our desire for that power through religion.

It is this justification that makes it so dangerous for us right now.  The Conservative Christian Cult is sounding the war cry again.  We need to send troops into Syria.  We need to send troops into Iraq.  We need to send troops into Iran.  We need to send troops to help the Israelis in their war against Hamas.  We need to send troops to the Ukraine.

The Cult and their talking heads at FOX News are the ones calling for war again.  They use phony excuses like the President hasn’t been tough enough.  But, what they are hiding is their true reason for these wars.  They actually want to start another world war.  They will even be thrilled to have a global nuclear war break out.  That is because in their fantasy world, they won’t be around to see the consequences of such a war.

The Cult and their talking heads want to start a holocaust.  They want to see Armageddon take place in our life time.  They have been working for years to make it happen.  Now, they figure they have the right opportunity at the right time.  They just need to get their people in power so it can begin in earnest.

Since religion became such a large part in people’s lives, Armageddon has been seen as the “cleansing” of the world from sin.  Those Cult members who truly believe in Armageddon believe it is their duty to bring it about.  That is why they are so eager to get involved in foreign conflicts.  Especially foreign conflicts that involve those “other religions”.  Have you ever wondered why the Cult is so aggressive toward the Palestinians and so forgiving of the Israelis for building settlements in Palestinian Territory?  It is because they know that more Jews living in Palestinian Territory will heighten tension and start the blood flowing.

They aren’t worried about the end of the world.  They want it to happen.  They don’t worry about it because they have fallen into the fallacy that they won’t be around for it.  In the 1800′s a young Baptist farmer named William Miller (1782-1849) predicted the end of the world.  He even went so far as to say it would happen on October 22, 1844.  But, not to frighten his followers, he came up with the “rapture” to protect them.  According to Miller, just before the world ended, the true followers would be whisked into heaven and not face the tribulation the rest of the world would face.

Of course the world did not end on October 22, 1844.  We are still here.  Since many of his followers sold off everything they had this prediction is still called “The Great Disappointment”.  But, the Cult has latched on to this fantasy of the “rapture” and keep telling their followers they needn’t worry about the end of the world since they won’t be around.  When you think about it, it is really scary stuff.  They will tell you that it is god’s will.  Which is a nice excuse so no one has to take the blame.  This is why they are so keen on getting the conflict started.  Their warped belief that their god is stronger than your god has led them to believe they are immune.

One year, a co-worker came to me with a list of candidates he liked.  He suggested that I vote for all of the candidates on his list.  When I asked him why they were so great, he commented that they “were all good god fearing Christians.”  I thanked him for the list.  After the election, he asked if I used his list.  I assured him that I did.  I voted for every single opponent of everyone who was on his list.  I never got another list after that.

Unfortunately, that is the mindset of the Cult.  They want us to elect their followers to office so they can get things started.  They are so wrapped up in their own little make-believe world, that they have no compassion for anyone else.  That is why their fight to gain control of the government is so frightening, and why we need to make sure they don’t get the power they so crave.

I have often scoffed at Bill O’Reilly.  Actually, that is not hard to do.  It seems every time he opens his mouth, something stupid comes out of it.  But, I must confess, I am beginning to have pity on the self-anointed prophet.  I am not a doctor, so I cannot say for sure what is going on in his poor little brain.  But, whatever it is, he definitely needs help.

He had a conversation with Carl Rove on his show Wednesday night.  As I watched the clip, I was stunned that even Carl Rove seemed somewhat bemused by what O’Reilly was saying.  O’Reilly was actually calling for the U.S. to build a “Berlin Wall” on the southern border.  He didn’t actually call it a Berlin Wall, he called it an East German Fence.  He apparently knew that using the words Berlin Wall may have caused pace makers in his viewers to stop working.

He went on to say “I was there and I was there for it coming down — the wall coming down in Berlin — and I was actually there on the scene,” “Nobody could get through that fence, all right? Nobody. It was a formidable obstacle.”  He further justified his claim by saying that the Israelis have built a similar fence to “keep out terrorists”.  Then he said  “We haven’t done that … That’s mistake number one.”  He then suggested that we need to put the National Guard at the border to “stop the madness” there.

Okay, let’s look at the East German Fence that O’Reilly seems to love so much.  First, the Berlin Wall was built not to keep people out, but to keep its citizens in.  It wasn’t so formidable that people weren’t able to escape East Berlin.  Actually, thousands of people managed to get past the Wall in order to gain freedom in West Germany.

Secondly, it was a formidable fence especially when you consider that there were “watch towers” positioned all along it with armed guards stationed there with orders to “shoot to kill” anyone trying to get over the wall.  Even so, there were still people who tried to get over or under the wall with that threat hanging over them.

Maybe in O’Reilly’s warped brain this is where the National Guard comes in.  I wonder if he is suggesting that we build our own version of the wall, place watch towers on it with armed National Guard members in them with orders to shoot to kill anyone trying to come over the fence into the U.S.  Here is an arm-chair patriot who has railed against Communism right up to today, advocating that we emulate the East Germans and build a “formidable” fence on our border.

As I said, I am not a doctor.  But, it seems to me that poor Bill has lost his mind!  Maybe Bill is suffering from dementia.  Maybe he has the beginnings of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Maybe he has just lost it altogether.   I think it is time for Bill to seek medical help for whatever is ailing him.

As a veteran, it is absolutely appalling to me that anyone in the country would suggest we emulate the ruthless East German government and build a new Berlin Wall.  Even I didn’t think Bill was that stupid.  There must be a medical reason.

We have known for a long time that the far right-wing of the Republican Party is nuts!  We have also known for a long time that the “establishment” wing of the Republican Party is more than happy to subjugate themselves to these nuts in order to get votes.  But, what is happening at the border between Mexico and the U.S. is a disgrace.

Right-wing nuts are lining up to “stop immigration” by keeping buses with illegal immigrants from getting to the shelters and holding areas where they will be processed according to the law.  We have grown adults holding signs that read things like “return to sender”.  At the same time, they are railing against the administration for not enforcing the law.  Well, actually, the administration is enforcing the law.  The law that was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Republican President named George W. Bush.

The unfortunate part of all of this is that it has gotten completely out of control.  Yesterday in Arizona, a State Representative, Adam Kwasman, who is also running for the U.S. Congress whipped up hatred by decrying that the yellow school bus carrying illegal immigrants was coming.  The shouting started.  He went on to say that “this is not compassion”.  “This is the abrogation of the rule of law.”  He even said to a reporter that “he saw the fear on those children’s faces.”

How nice, a man running for a seat in the U.S. Congress is congratulating himself for terrifying children.  But, there was one slight problem with this situation.  The school bus wasn’t carrying undocumented immigrants.  It was carrying a bunch of kids from a YMCA camp.   When he was informed about the YMCA kids not being undocumented immigrants, all he could muster was “they were sad too.”  No kidding, a group of adults scaring the holy shit out of children just might make them look sad, too.

These scenes are being played out in Arizona and California.  But, rather than fighting for the law to be enforced, these people actually want the administration to break the law and simply send them back without a hearing the law says they must get.  I cannot fathom how adults can be so afraid of children.  But, there you have it.  They are absolutely terrified of them.

Not to be outdone, Louie Gohmert showed his brilliance again.  Okay, so he showed just how stupid a former judge can be.  He claims that what is going on at the southern border is actually the “real war on women”.  According to Mr. Gohmert, “criminal aliens” were responsible for 2,993 homicides in the past six years — as well as 7,695 sexual assaults.   Okay, but what about the other tens of thousands of murder and sexual assaults that take place in this country every year by what can only be described as “criminal citizens”?

As a result of these numbers, Mr. Gohmert claims that the “real war on women” is being waged by criminal alien hordes.  Furthermore  he said:

“Our continued existence is at risk with what’s going on at the southern border.” He blasted the White House for “actually assist[ing] the criminal conspiracy in achieving its illegal goals” by neglecting to adequately enforce America’s laws against illegal immigration.

In my opinion, though he left out the words “white women”, that was what he meant.

I want to remind everyone that immigration was handled differently in the past.  It was even “civil”.  Up through most of the 20th Century, immigrants were not given a green card.  My grandfather was an immigrant.  When he came to the U.S. he was not given a green card.  He went through Ellis Island like all the rest of the immigrants.

According to the law at the time, each year, he was required to “register as an alien” by January 31.  Since my grandfather never obtained citizenship, he had to register right up to his death.  I remember going to the post office every January to get his registration card.  I would fill it out for him, have him sign it, and mail it back.  I don’t know when green cards became the norm, but I do remember sending in his registration card through 1970 when he passed away.

Even still, we have adult people terrifying young children with their signs, yelling, and pure hate.  Why is this happening?  Why is this necessary?  It is only necessary to those un-American people on the far right who claim to be for liberty and freedom but don’t really want either.  It is only necessary for those who want to gain political points by snuggling up to these lunatics.  Let’s face some facts here, we are talking mostly about children.

Instead of reporting on the actions of these nuts, it is time to stop putting them on camera.  It is time to stop talking to stupid people and start talking about how to best handle the situation.  But that takes real adults.  People like Louie Gohmert and Adam Kwasman should not be confused with real adults.  Hate is on display at the southern border, and it is a disgrace to our country.

As I had feared, the mess at the Veteran’s Administration has fallen to the back burner.  Obviously, it doesn’t stand up to the “sexy” tag that the news media needs to cover a story.  The political stunt of Boehner suing the President and the border crisis have top billing.  In the meantime, millions of veterans are still left in the dark alleys and not getting the help they need.

Then, all of the bills that are being proposed to “fix” the VA won’t actually fix it.  They are going to throw money at the VA, and they are going to pass laws that make it easier to fire people.  One allows those more than 40 miles away from a clinic or hospital to seek treatment at a private doctor or hospital.  But none of that is going to “fix” the VA.  It is time for an overhaul of the Veterans Administration.  I am not talking about taking the agency away, nor about privatizing it.  I don’t even think it needs to have everyone fired and restart over.  But an overhaul is necessary.

There are a lot of problems that the VA faces.  One is money.  But, that isn’t the only problem.  For example, in 2000 lawmakers passed the Veterans Claims Assistance Act.  A well-intentioned bill to help veterans with claims.

The law required that the VA tell a veteran what to do to prove a claim, help the veteran obtain necessary records, and inform the veteran when the VA could not obtain the information it needed. The law required the VA to retrieve the veteran’s service medical records and provide exams when the VA did not have sufficient evidence to substantiate a claim.

But the law was ambiguous and left much open to interpretation, which had to be fought out in the courts. It wound up adding several additional layers of bureaucracy to an already clunky VA claims process without appropriating additional funds or human resources to manage the increased workload.

As a result, things didn’t get better, it only made it more complicated.  There is a very good reason for the backlog.  There are more veterans needing help than there are people to help them.  Very few rural areas of the country have VA clinics or offices.  That means vets have to make, oftentimes, arduous journeys just to get the help they need.  Yes, they can often use the internet, but that doesn’t always help the situation and a face-to-face exam is necessary.

The quality of service at VA Hospitals and Clinics is excellent.  Most veterans will tell you that.  The problem is that there aren’t enough Hospitals and Clinics to properly treat all of the veterans who need treatment.  Additionally, there are thousands upon thousands of job openings at the VA and its hospitals and clinics.  They can’t fill all of the open positions they have.  One reason is money.  Though professional medical providers are paid well, they are not paid what they can get in the private sector.

The two wars that G.W. Bush laid on us also contributed to the backlog.  Especially when you consider that early on, the department was publicly counting only about a third of the casualties stemming from the War on Terror. That was because the Department was only counting servicemen and women immediately targeted in the department’s wounded-in-action statistics. That accounting method left out those who were not targeted but were wounded nonetheless, such as troops injured when they were riding two trucks back from one that was hit by a roadside bomb, or those hurt in training or transportation.

The problems at the VA go back decades.  At least to the Kennedy years.  The VA has always been the ugly step-child of the country.  We are keen to send our young men and women into harms way to “protect” our freedom.  But, once they have protected that freedom, they are forgotten, even shied away from.  If you want proof, look no further than the Wounded Warriors Project.  This is a very good organization that is trying to help our vets.  I commend them for their work.  But, I ask, why are such organizations even necessary?  Why isn’t the country taking on this responsibility?  Because no one wants to fix the VA, they just want to use tragedies like we have recently seen as political points.

Since the so-called “War On Terrorism” started, everyone seems to be happy to “thank a vet” for their service.  You see it everywhere.  At sporting events.  At concerts.  Everywhere people are gathered there is the phrase to “thank a vet” or “in honor of our men and women in uniform”.  Those are nice sentiments, but they are not what veterans need or even want.  They need and want proper medical treatment and help!

If you want to truly thank a vet, demand from your Representative that veterans stop being treated like they don’t exist by the very government they served.  Demand from your Representative that real, meaningful changes and fixes are made to the Veterans Administration so all veterans get the help they need.

We should not be headlines for political gain.  We should not be invisible.  We want to be respected for our service and treated so we can properly “heal” from the physical and mental wounds we have received.  Make that happen, and you will really be thanking vets for their service.

If not, “thank you for your service” are just meaningless words.  Sorry, but that’s the truth.

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