Why does everyone care about Nathan Phillips?

world_newspapersWhen I first heard of the encounter between Nick Sandmann and Nathan Phillips, I was heavily inclined to NOT weigh in on the situation. First off, no matter what happened, it was a localized event with no impact on anything. It doesn’t matter who you believe, or who was even right, because it means nothing to the American political system, or to you in any sort of way. It’s a problem for the individuals involved to figure out, and that’s about it.

Yet the story went crazy, in large part because of social media. A video was taken with a cell phone, it went viral, so news agencies picked it up and ran with it. It’s a problem that news agencies haven’t quite figured out how to handle yet.

As a news agency, when are presented with a video, that has no context or substance, and you choose to highlight it as a legitimate news story simply because people are watching it, you are bound to run into problems. Of course, if you ignore the video, you are bound to become irrelevant.

So, what should they do? They should present the video as news and allow viewers to make their own decisions on it. The last thing they should be doing is pushing a narrative, and yet that’s exactly what almost every news agency did.

And while I completely disagree with President Donald Trump’s assessment that the media is “the enemy of the people”, it’s mishandled situations like this that give him and his supporters a ton of ammunition.

Mainstream media companies need to do a better job at presenting stories like this in an unbiased manner until all the facts come in. Even then they need to simply present the facts to the public and let them make up their minds about the situations.

That kind of journalism that is essential in a democratic nation. Journalism isn’t the “enemy of the people”, it’s the only thing that keeps society working. However, when it’s handled so horribly wrong it hurts democracy by hurting the image of the media.

Trump’s comments are just a symptom of the problem at hand, and until you fix the root of the problem, you can expect the symptoms to get worse.

Donald Trump: This is how you can end the shutdown

capitolFor someone who champions himself as knowing “the art of the deal”, and being an expert dealmaker, President Donald Trump seems to be clueless on how to end this shutdown. His recent proposal to Democrats only goes to show how incapable he is of understanding how to compromise.

His offer of 3 years amnesty for DREAMERS in exchange for his border wall funding is laughable. Why would Democrats agree to a temporary solution for DREAMERS while agreeing to put up a permanent wall?

If Trump was serious about reopening the government, he would have offered PERMENANT protection for DREAMERS, preferably by legalizing them. But instead Trump hopes that Democrats will end up caving to his plan, so he can try and use DREAMERS as political leverage down the road to get what he wants again. The problem is, Democrats will never agree to that, and in the meantime 800,000 government workers will continue to go unpaid.

The solution to end this shutdown is simple. It gives both sides something that they want while giving up something both sides hate. In exchange for Trump’s wall funding Democrats should get the legalization of all DREAMERS.

He can’t argue that this will just encourage more immigrants to flood the border to get to America, because as he has so proudly touted, his wall will “prevent that”. Additionally, there will instantly be 800,000 less illegal immigrants in the United States, curing part of that problem as well.

It’s a common-sense solution that neither side will really like, but that they can take back to their respective bases as “wins”. But in the end the real winner is the 800,000 American people that can go back to work, and to a lesser extent, the American people.

Limiting Trumps Power: Something both parties agree on.

natoRepublicans are once again working to limit President Donald Trump’s power when it comes to international affairs, proof that they don’t trust his judgement when it comes to working with our allies. This time Senate Republicans, being led by Senator Lindsey Graham, are working to pass legislation to prevent Trump from withdrawing from NATO as he has threatened to do.

Previously, Republicans’ and Democrats’ passed legislation preventing Trump from withdrawing troops from South Korea. These actions go to show how unhinged Congress has come to view Trump. They don’t trust him to be able to make basic decisions that are clearly in the best interest of the country.

If Trump were to withdraw from NATO, the number one beneficiary would be Russia, at the expense of all of Europe. If Trump were to withdraw troops from South Korea, the number one beneficiary would be North Korea, at the expense of the South.

These are common sense things, and the fact that Congress doesn’t trust Trump to see that is telling. It either means that Republicans and Democrats alike think Trump is an idiot, or that he doesn’t have the best interests of the United States as his foremost interest.

One thing is for sure though, Republicans are finally starting to stand up to Trump, at least for the most common-sense things, and that can only be a good thing. The powers of the executive branch have run amuck in recent years, and it’s taken a clearly unhinged president to finally get the legislative branch to reign him in.  

Donald Trump’s absurd cost sharing proposal with South Korea: What does he expect to gain?

camp humphreysThe United States/South Korea alliance is one that has been crucial to stabilize Eastern Asia since the Korean War. With North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons, China’s development of military technology, and a resurging Russia, that alliance is more important than ever for both South Korea and the United States.

With that in mind it becomes even more perplexing that both sides have been unable to come to a new deal on the cost sharing measures for U.S. troops that are stationed there. Under the previous deal, South Korea covered roughly half of all the costs associated with the United States military in South Korea, which rang up to roughly 850 million dollars a year.

Additionally, South Korea almost completely funded the expansion to Camp Humphreys, a 11-billion-dollar endeavor. But, for President Donald Trump that’s still not enough. He has called for a 150 percent increase in the amount of funding provided by South Korea, and he wants to have the contract renegotiated every year, instead of every five years like has been done previously.

If President Trump expects to get any where near that much of an increase in defense funding by South Korea, he has lost his mind. When the contract was renegotiated last time, the United States secured an increase of 5.8 percent by South Korea, and 4 percent cap on the inflation rate. Something along those lines is what can be expected this time around and is what is reasonable for South Korea to cover.

What makes this situation more perplexing is the fact that other U.S. allies, like Germany, pay far less of the share then Korea does. Germany pays only 18 percent of the overall cost associated with the United States military being in their country,

So what gives? Many experts think that Donald Trump is trying to gain leverage to use during potential second summit with North Korea, where he can use the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea as a bargaining chip. Just about every expert agrees, this would be a terrible idea.

Congress has taken notice too, that’s why as a part of the defense policy bill for the year it was specified that there will always be a minimum of 22,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea for this fiscal years budget.

Still the question remains, is President Trump looking to withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea in exchange for concessions from the North. And as long as it remains a question, it hurts the alliance between the United States and South Korea, and gives our adversaries in the region and edge that they don’t need.

 

Purdue Pharma and the Opioid Drug Crisis

opioidBefore Purdue Pharma released OxyContin in the 1990’s, Richard Sackler, then senior vice president responsible for sales, and a member of the family that owns Purdue Pharma had these prophetic words to say “The launch of OxyContin Tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition. The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense, and white”.

If Mr. Sackler knew then what he knew now he might not have been so proud of that fact. 72,000 people died from opioid overdoes’ in 2017, and Mr. Sackler’s comments point to one of the root causes. Yes, it’s true that pharmaceutical companies recklessly pushed prescription painkiller’s like OxyContin for years despite knowing the risks. And yes, the companies deserve to take a large portion of the blame.

But simply blaming them for the opioid epidemic missies another key factor that needs to be addressed for this problem to be solved.

Doctors still need to be held accountable for prescribing opioid painkillers to patients at an alarming rate. Opioid pain killers need to be prescribed as a last resort to manage pain, but right now they are among the first things doctors recommend. Additionally, with all the negative research available doctors need to be held accountable for not properly sharing those risks to their patients.

Furthermore, doctors need to be held responsible for not ensuring that their patients are being properly weaned off their medication. Too many times patients are prescribed opioids, only to become addicted and then have their prescription taken away. It’s then that these individuals turn to illegal drugs like heroin to get their fix.

So yes, it’s a good thing that these drug companies are being taken to court for their nefarious practices that got these drugs on the market to begin with. But by assigning blame to them we must be careful to ensure that we don’t get complacent. We still need to address how opioids are getting prescribed today, or this drug epidemic isn’t going to get any better.

Steve King’s Condemnation a Sign of Things to Come from the GOP? Not Likely.

steve king
Photo Source

Representative Steve King was barred from being on any committee assignments following his blatantly racist remarks complaining that the terms “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” have become offensive. And while the entire nation, including the GOP, is condemning these words is a good thing, a quick look at Rep. King’s past remarks makes you wonder, why wasn’t anything done sooner?

His disparaging remarks started in 2002, as he slowly tested the waters to see what he could get away with. And as each comment and action went unchecked, he pushed a little further as predators do.

A quick look back at Rep. King’s comments brings to mind another politician that uses similar language on an almost a daily basis and doesn’t get checked by the GOP. President Donald Trump.

Don’t believe that the two are similar? Let’s see if you can attribute the quote to the correct speaker:

“The lives of 12 U.S. citizens would be saved who otherwise die a violent death at the hands of murderous illegal aliens each day.”

That would be Rep. King in 2006. How about this one in response to the number of American’s killed by illegal aliens since 9-11,

“Sixty-three thousand, and that number they say is very low because things aren’t reported”.

That would be President Trump in 2018. Both statistics, false. Trump’s statistic? Derived from Rep. King’s false statistic.

One more,

“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

That one is Rep. King in 2013. To list every infraction of Rep. King over the years would be an impossibly enormous endeavor. But it wasn’t until his last screw up that the GOP finally decided to act.

This kind of behavior and attitude has no place in the 21st century, let alone from an elected official. It’s disheartening for Americans’ to hear these words being spoken without reproach.

Hopefully the barring of Rep. King from committees is indicative of change to come. But if Donald Trump is an indicator, we won’t be pleasantly surprised by having this scourge removed from our political system any time soon.

The Feres Doctrine and the Military: Why it needs to go

doctors, performing, operation

Every military member that has ever served, or that is currently serving, will agree on this piece of advice for other service members, if you need any kind of medical procedure or advice, try and get a referral off base.

Everyone who has served for any amount of time has seen the horrors that medical has inflicted on service members. While I served, I knew a guy that had his jaw broken by dental, twice. That same guy had back surgery done by a military doctor, they botched it, so he’ll never walk right again.

I knew another service member who got a vasectomy by military doctors, now it hurts every time he has sex because they botched that procedure too. I can’t name all the people I know that have woken up while dental has been taking their wisdom teeth out because the anesthesiologist botched the dosage amount.

Me personally, I was sent for a pre-op appointment following a dislocated finger because the MRI they sent me out for said I had some torn tendons. Only when I got to the civilian doctor, he told me that OF COURSE I had some torn tendons, I had just dislocated my finger, but I certainly didn’t need surgery! His words “anyone who has been through medical school should know this”.

The good news for all these service members dealing with incompetent doctors? There isn’t a damn thing you can do. Thanks to something called the Feres doctrine, military members are barred from opening medical malpractice suits against their military doctors.

Now I certainly didn’t need a medical malpractice suit opened for my case, but what about the case of Sgt. 1st Class Rich Stayskal? His cancer showed up on a scan in January 2017, but did anyone tell him about it? No. How about a few months later when he was passing out and coughing up blood? Nope wasn’t worth mentioning.

It wasn’t until June when he was referred to a NON-MILITARY doctor, that he was told that he had cancer. And by then it had spread. His cancer is now terminal.

How about the case of Rebekah Daniel? She died following child birth due to excessive bleeding five years ago. What caused the excessive bleeding and why couldn’t the military doctors stop it? Well they’re not quite sure and they aren’t trying to find out. They don’t care.

Now don’t get me wrong the Feres doctrine has its worth, military doctors shouldn’t be held liable for treating wounds caused on the battlefield. Those are extraordinary cases where outcomes can’t be guaranteed, and doctors can’t be second guessing themselves.

But during routine medical procedures and care, military doctors should not be allowed to botch the medical care that they provide to military personnel without consequence. There are only two types of doctors in the United States that can practice without medical malpractice insurance, military doctors and civilian doctors that work on military personnel. This needs to change, our military members deserve better.

Dear Congress and Donald Trump: Let Mr. Motawakil into the Country

terminal_e_waiting_areaMohasif Motawakil risked his life by becoming an interpreter for US troops in Afghanistan in 2012. Despite the dangers to himself and his family he made the choice to help the Americans that were there, potentially saving our service members lives.

After waiting for years to be approved Mr. Motawakil finally had approval for him and his family to come live in America as a thank you for his service in Afghanistan. It should have been a time of immense joy for the Motawakil family.

But that was not to be the case. Instead Mr. Motawakil and his family were detained in Houston and they are being threatened with deportation, a fate that will likely lead to them all being killed upon their return, all because Mr. Motawakil’s medical documents were opened when they shouldn’t have been.

And while this is something to be looked into, it shouldn’t be something where deportation is even suggested. This man risked EVERYTHING to help American service members, when it would have been even easier to just turn his back on them and ensure his own safety.

This is not the way to treat people who risk their lives for our people. This is a situation that every Congressman and every Senator should agree on. Let Mr. Motawakil into the country, he and his family have earned that privilege, and please stop threatening to send this man to his death by returning him to Kabul.

 

Trump and his “National Emergency”

CBP_Tours_San_Diego_Border_Wall_Prototypes_with_POTUS_(25935924167).jpgAs President Trump gets more and more frustrated with the government shutdown it seems he is more and more likely to do the unthinkable, declare the lack of a border wall a “national emergency” and try and use the military to build it.

It’s an unthinkable abuse of power, one that would be instantly contested in court, and almost certainly be blocked. But the mere notion of suggesting that the military should be used to enforce a partisan agenda, is terrifyingly dangerous.  

It is not the job of the military to do the bidding of the President in partisan issues. The fact that this is even a thinkable action to be taken goes to show how far the role of Commander in Chief has gone astray.

The role of the Commander in Chief should be to direct troops into wars that have already been authorized in Congress, or direct troops into a war that is being approved by Congress (something that has been abused by Presidents’ of both parties in recent years).

But the use of the United States military to enforce domestic partisan policies significantly raises the risk of the United States taking a step towards becoming an authoritarian government. If the President can order the military to build his wall, why can’t he order the military to enforce drug policies? Isn’t that a national emergency too? What about immigration control in sanctuary cities? The implications of what the President thinks he can do is appalling and terrifying.

And while attempting to use the military to circumvent Congress will be challenged and overturned in the court system, the mere mention of using them degrades our service members. They joined to serve their country and they deserve better then to be used as political pawns by the President to enforce his domestic political agenda.

Blue Water 2019: It’s time to FINALLY do the right thing

Vietnam_Veterans_with_Washington_Monument.jpgBlue Water Vietnam veterans have been fighting Congress for decades to have their service related health care problems covered by the VA. Congress’ response has always been the same, it’s too expensive.

Last year the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018 passed unanimously in the House before it stalled in the Senate because of comments made by VA Secretary Robert Wilkie with concerns about the cost.

Here’s the thing when it comes to the cost of providing healthcare for service related issues, yeah it might suck that it’s so expensive, but if you want to stop paying those bills stop sending people to fight your wars.

America’s Soldiers, Marines, Airman, and Sailors deserve to be taken care of while they are serving our country and after they are done serving it. They deserve to be treated better than a used washrag after they made so many sacrifices in the defense of our country.

Secretary Wilkie and every Senator that helped to prevent these veterans from getting the help that they need, not just last year, but every year before that, should be ashamed of themselves. Their policy has been unwavering, just keep pushing it down the road and eventually all the Vietnam veterans will die off.

Instead of treating these veterans the policy has been to let the diseases that they acquired because of their military service kill them, and the quicker the better so this whole fiasco just goes away.

Of all the cheap, immoral, and downright appalling ways to try and save a buck.

The good news, the House just passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019. Now its just up to the Senate to do the right thing and give these veterans that they help that so desperately need and deserve.