Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Veterans issues

The Naylor living room is all playroom, cleared to toddle, cuddle and roll. But when Dad's home, the children often head to the back bedroom to play quietly with Mom.
Six years after Guy Naylor returned from Iraq, he can't stand the clamor of his own family. The soft-spoken dialysis technician shouted at other drivers so often, his family moved to Rockaway to escape Portland traffic. The medic who ran every day has gained 80 pounds. Joint pain wakes him. He coughs so much, his patients constantly ask if he has a cold. He swallows nine different medications a day. Up from none.
"He doesn't seem like a 40-year-old man," says his wife, Toniann. "He seems 60."
Naylor is being treated for post-traumatic stress and exposure to hexavalent chromium, an industrial chemical and well-known carcinogen that soldiers unwittingly faced while guarding war contractors. He's one of 278 Oregon Army National Guard soldiers who were notified of possible exposure while serving at or near the Qarmat Ali water-treatment plant in 2003. Fleeing Iraqi troops loyal to Saddam Hussein had dumped the orange industrial chemical across the property.

That's the opening to Julie Sullivan's "6 years after Iraq, hexavalent chromium exposure weighs on veteran" (The Oregonian) and it needs to be noted Sullivan is always there on this story. She's covering it when Congress holds hearing, she's covering it when the national media temporarily shows interest and she covers it when no one is covering it. At the end of November, Iraq War veteran Lt Col Jim Gentry died of cancer which probably stems to his own exposure to hexavalent chromium. The Democratic Policy Committee has done the bulk of the work on this issue. Which is good since that committee chaired by Senator Byron Dorgan was able to step up and exercise fact-finding tasks and hold public hearings while the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee did so little. Senator Evan Bayh (not a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee but he is a member and regional chair of the DPC) has a bill proposing a national registry for those exposed while serving and such a registry would go a long way towards helping veterans today and in the future establish medical claims. That bill is currently buried in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

We do note the DPC here and have attended their hearings to cover them. Last week, they issued several news releases including the following on the Recovery Act:

Earlier this year, the Democratic Congress worked with President Obama to enact the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Recovery Act) in an effort to rescue, rebuild, and strengthen our struggling national economy. Eight years of failed fiscal policies and misguided economic priorities had left our national economy on the brink of disaster, and now – only nine months later – our economy is on the brink of recovery. The Recovery Act and the efforts of American businesses and workers made this progress possible.

Despite this encouraging news, Democrats know that many Americans are still struggling, and unemployment – a lagging economic indicator – remains far too high. In response, Democrats are working to create and save millions of jobs with Recovery Act dollars and tax relief. Already, with more than half of the dollars yet to be spent, the recovery package has provided for more than one million jobs and the rate of job loss has slowed significantly. As we look toward the future, Democrats believe that the Recovery Act, combined with the American work ethic and ingenuity, will continue to make a difference for American families and will deliver on its promise to rebuild our economy and get Americans back to work.

To see how the Recovery Act is creating jobs and making a difference in your state, click below.

That is not Iraq related but I'm noting it because DPC has done serious work on the issues of the Iraq War and the issues of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan War. Again, the committee is chaired by Senator Byron Dorgan. And before someone e-mails to say, "I'm sure the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has held some sort of hearing . . . " I'm not saying they haven't. I'm saying it hasn't been a primary focus. October 8th's snapshot reports on that day's hearing about exposures. That hearing did cover veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. . . . and civilians exposed in the 90s . . . in the 80s . . . in the 60s . . . It did not make time to seriously address any issue as it hopped all over the map.

Meanwhile Diana Sroka (Northwest Herald) reports on the unemployment many veterans are facing with over 500 jobless in McHenry County alone (northern county in Illinois which borders a section of Wisconsin) while the estimate for the full state is at least 2,230 (based on unemployment benefits from the start of this year through October). Sroka notes, "A group of about 30 unemployed veterans gather twice monthly at the Woodstock VFW to network and discuss their job search strategies. Blanchard's group attempts to provide rehabilitation, job training and employment opportunities for veterans. And a host of state agencies, such as the Department of Employment Security and the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, strive to connect companies with qualified workers."

We'll note the People in Need Forum next month in McHenry County:

The next People in Need Forum with resources to help your neighbor and yourself will be presented on January 30, 2010 at McHenry County College from 8 am to 12:30.
This annual opportunity for volunteers and staff from human service, civic and faith-based organizations started in 2003 and has steadily grown since that time. The Forum provides an opportunity to learn about community resources available for those in need. With the current economic climate, there is a greater need than ever before to provide assistance to those who assist others in our community.
Workshops will provide practical information to help resolve care-receiver issues. Representatives from human service organizations will be in attendance with informational handouts on such timely issues as utility assistance, food stamps, health care, transportation options, homelessness, domestic violence, legal matters, and loss of job. All participants will receive the updated 2010 People in Need Community Resource Directory.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell is the policy implemented by Bill Clinton. In 1992, Bill Clinton campaigned for president promising to overturn the policy against gays serving in the military (that policy was not 'historic' and, in fact, resulted from failed legal efforts by the military to drum out soldiers). Then-President Clinton immediately attempted to address this. He faced resistance in Congress -- including from Democrats -- and Collie Powell was in the midst of a mid-life homosexual panic and threatening mutiny in the military if the ban was overturned. (The ban is a Reagan era creation. It is not 'historical.') Faced with a Congress dead sent against repealing the ban and beloved media generals who like their sex dirty but private, Bill put forward Don't Ask, Don't Tell as a compromise. It was a step forward. In an outgoing interview (conducted in November 1999) with Rolling Stone, Bill spoke of how Don't Ask, Don't Tell needed to be revisited and taken further. That was eight years ago. (And that was a "Rolling Stone Interview" and Jann S. Wenner conducted it.)

The measure was a step forward and argued that no one could be drummed out of the military for being gay if their private life was private. As a small step-forward, it was historic. As a measure that's now lasted two decades, it's shameful. Many have been drummed out for being gay. They 'told.' No, they were ratted out. But no one has been drummed out for asking. Gays are still the ones targeted even under this policy. There were penalties for both 'asking' and 'telling' but only gays (gay men and lesbians) have been punished. (And, no doubt, some straight people who either couldn't 'prove' they were straight or found the whole process too insulting.) Most people, during their daily lives, have conversations and, at some point, they may mention a significant other. Or an ex. It's not 'sex talk.' It can be, "Yeah, Terry and I stayed there" or whatever. Most people, in daily conversations, do mention an ex or a significant other. Gays in the military can be punished for that. "Terry" is a generic name. "Joe" or "Jo" sound the same. But "Betty," for example, is clearly a woman and "Charles" clearly a man. So gay men and women serving either have to not engage in the daily conversations that so many of us take for granted or they have to continually self-edit before ever saying a word. The Washington Post editorial board weighs in on the progress to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell (the editorial board supports repealing the policy):

The latest move came on Dec. 22 when Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and 95 House colleagues sent a letter to the Pentagon requesting statistics on troops discharged for violating the wrong-headed ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. They want everyone to see the effects of the policy on the military and the national defense. This has the added benefit of reminding Americans of the law's absurdity.
Since "don't ask, don't tell" was instituted in 1994, more than 13,500 members of the armed forces have been booted. According to the Moran letter, 730 mission-critical soldiers and more than 65 Arabic and Farsi linguists have been kicked out. How can it help U.S. efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan if those with critical skills are removed from service? Mr. Moran and his colleagues have asked Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to provide the total number of discharges in 2009 by Jan. 10. And they have asked him to give them monthly reports on service members discharged under "don't ask, don't tell," including their length of service, branch of the military and job specialty.

A visitor e-mails the public account to note Betsy Ross' "Iraq Troop Withdrawals Another Spin? Say It Isn't So" (GroundReport) which notes the members of the Florida National Guard deploying for Iraq:

So, just what gives actually?
We are sending MORE not LESS troops to Iraq at this point. And National Guardsmen at that, meant for domestic security and deployment most of all.
And as with the invasions in the border states as of late, "backup" for the border patrols, who it appears were also offered huge increases in their salaries if they put in for transfers from border patrol to service in Iraq during 2006 when Arizona was officially receiving troops which the Governor (Napoliano) had called out due to the continued victimization of American citizens in property thefts and other civil crimes, and drug cartel wars which were brewing on the U.S. side of the border.
It indicated that the terms of service for these Guardmen was 18 months also. When "officially" it has been announced that most troops were to be withdrawn from Iraq by the middle or end of 2010 per the "accord" signed by President Bush during his last 100 days in office - which it appears Mr. Obama is now following also - his "peace" candidate posture during the election cycle was clearly another campaign strategy and fascade as many prior candidates have been from both sides of the aisle - Mr. Bush included as the "conservative" and "Christian" after Clinton's MonicaGate fiasco.

Edward Colimore (Philadelphia Inquirer) reports, "Scores of New Jersey Air National Guard airmen with the 108th Air Wing were deployed yesterday and others were set to leave today for six months of duty in Iraq." Meanwhile Scott Fontaine (News Tribune) reports on "deployment downtime" in Tallil.

The following community sites updated last night:

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends