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.

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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

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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.

The GOP and Trump’s flawed border wall arguments

2560px-mexico-us_border_at_tijuana

The GOP has come up with some creative arguments for trying to justify building an archaic wall to stem illegal immigration at our nations southern border. But the problem with most of their arguments lack substance.

Argument One:

The GOP is the only party that cares about illegal immigration.

The Reality:

Former President Obama, as well as just about every other major leader in the Democratic Party, is against illegal immigration. But what the GOP is against in the Trump era isn’t illegal immigration, it’s immigration from the Middle East, Mexico, Latin America, and South America.

It doesn’t matter if people from Latin America are coming seeking asylum. To Trump they are “invaders” or “terrorists”. People seeking a legal immigration status in the United States are being turned away by the Trump administration before they even have the chance to apply. They are looking to do it legally but are being miscategorized as “illegals” to better fit the Trump narrative.

To be clear Democrats are anti-illegal immigrant, Trump and the GOP are anti-immigrant.

Argument Two:

A border wall will solve our illegal immigration problems.

The Reality:

Most illegal immigrants entering the United States today, around 65 percent, are visa overstays. Additionally, the amount of people crossing the border illegally has been dramatically declining since 2000, from 1.64 million then to just under 304 thousand in 2017.

It all ties into the fact that over 75 percent of the illegal immigrants living in the United States have been here for over a decade, and that only 5 percent of illegal immigrants have arrived in the last 5 years.

The problem facing the illegal immigration crisis in the United States today isn’t that too many people are crossing illegally today, its that too many people were crossing illegally years ago. If we’re going to fix this problem, we need to figure out what to do with the people already here, not spend billions of dollars preventing an “invasion” of people that aren’t coming.

Argument Three:

Mexico really IS paying for the wall

The Reality:

Trump repeatedly ran on the campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall, and since being elected he’s repeatedly backtracked on that promise. Any way you cut it, if the money needs to be approved by the United States Congress then the American people are going to be paying for it. And any way you cut it, the American people have far more important things to be funding then an archaic wall that won’t solve our nations illegal immigration problems, namely the trillion dollar deficit and 22 trillion dollar national debt.

Who do you believe, Kavanaugh or Ford? Depends if you’re a Democrat or a Republican.

Mike_Pence,_Brett_Kavanaugh,_Mitch_McConnell,_and_Jon_KylEven in the post-Trump world of US politics not many things have garnered the level of attention and controversy that the confirmation process of Judge Brett Kavanaugh has brought.

Still it’s just another example of the stark political divisions that reside within the country today. Think about it, and whether you believe Judge Kavanaugh or Doctor Christine Blasey Ford can almost always be answered by one simple question, are you a Republican or a Democrat?

And if you think your side has the moral high ground, think again. Because I can guarantee you that if the roles were reversed and it was a Democratic nominee being contested by Republicans you would almost certainly feel the exact opposite of your current stance. All one needs to do is look back at the allegations surrounding former President Bill Clinton to see this.

Think about the situation objectively for a second. A Supreme Court nominee stands accused of sexually assaulting a woman 36 years ago while he was in high school. Currently only two people know what truly happened that day 36 years ago, Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford.

If you claim to “know” otherwise you’re only fooling yourself. You choose to believe Judge Kavanaugh or Dr. Ford, and your belief is likely directly tied to your political views.

If the Senate confirms Judge Kavanaugh and he is guilty they just put a rapist on the Supreme Court. If they deny him the chance to serve on the Court and he didn’t do it, they just ruined an innocent man’s life. It’s an impossible decision to make if you aren’t being influenced by outside factors, which is why the issue is so starkly divided by political lines.

More importantly though, nothing being said in the Senate is going to change anyone’s mind. Republicans will believe Judge Kavanaugh and Democrats will believe Dr. Ford, and once again the political lines that divide this nation will be dug a little deeper.

Both sides need to step back and realize that the accusations around Judge Kavanaugh can never be proven or disproven, and that if they were on the other side of the aisle, they’d be believing the other person. Instead of focusing on the accusations we should be looking at his record on the issues that he will be addressing if he is nominated to the Court.

As a nation we need to start looking at the issues that matter in the country and start ignoring some of the political and media fluff that is designed to draw votes and money.

 

Roseanne and Racism: How did we get here?

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Roseanne Barr, star of the show Roseanne, was fired by ABC following a racist tweet comparing Valerie Jarrett to a monkey, and conservatives collectively lost their minds.

Let’s begin by getting one thing straight, comparing an African American to a monkey is racist. Failure to recognize this overlooks years of racial oppression and the use of this comparison to marginalize Africans’ and African Americans’ for years. It is racist (If you still can’t wrap your mind around that read more about it here).

Secondly, conservatives being “outraged” by a private organization choosing to act on an individual for making a “political statement” is laughable. After years of conservatives preaching that the NFL should punish players for kneeling during the national anthem, they claim outrage that a private organization can punish an individual for exercising their free speech.

The same conservatives that voted for Donald Trump, who said this about the NFL protesters “Wouldn’t you love to see one of those NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

You don’t get to get upset when every private organization doesn’t follow your political and personal ideology. You either continue to support the company or you don’t. Personally, I don’t see a problem with a company condemning racism.

The fact that this has divided the country epitomizes what exactly is wrong with the United States today. Racism in all it’s forms must be stamped out. Since when did that reemerge as a partisan issue? Since when did open racism become acceptable once again? And more importantly, how do we condemn it once and for all?