Thursday, May 22, 2014

Scandal Eyes

As Memorial day draws near I can well imagine those souls it honors spinning in their graves in unified outrage; as the list of scandals at Veterans Administration hospitals grows ever deeper with the latest in a long list of disgraces. 

In a recent post I made reference to the current ever-deepening VA scandal involved with VA personnel cooking the books so it would appear they were setting appointments in a timely and efficient manner; while veterans died waiting to be seen by their doctor.  I didn't want to write about it in any depth because of the great negativity and frustration it generates, what with me being a disabled Vietnam Vet.  

I really tried to take the advice of Joseph Campbell when he said "We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy."  It goes hand in hand with another nugget of wisdom I assimilated along the way: True wealth is measured by how many things you can just leave be.  Far from ignoring the problem, one may elect to instead focus their energy & thoughts on more positive pursuits, and that felt fine to me.

Unfortunately, this current debacle just keeps mutating into a deliberate bureaucratic failure of monstrous proportions by the day.  What began as "A few isolated incidents" is now at 28 states, 40 deaths ... and growing.  That's right, I said deliberate, as intentional & willful.  Unfortunately the government of this country has a disgraceful historical habit of turning on it's veterans.  So I am cornered between Memorial day and the Muse, and find I have something of a duty to write about this subject.

This is something I can write about from personal experience with the VA system; and it's not a pretty picture.  When I came home from Vietnam with an honorable discharge and all my parts intact; my dad picked me up at the airport.  It was hard to spot him at first thru the buzzing crowd of protesters harassing any man departing the plane in uniform.  Lucky for me I was dressed in street clothes so nobody bothered me directly as I stood there in disbelief, the anger welling up inside me...suddenly a vice like hand grabbed my elbow just as I heard my old man's voice saying, "I've seen that look on your face before - time for us to go."  We claimed my bags and made it to the car in silence, and I needed that time to calm down after seeing people spitting on returning servicemen. 
With the airport falling away behind us in the rear view mirror, my dad looks at me and said:  "Listen to me...what you did, what you went thru over there for this country; just remember that nobody owes you anything for that - just put it behind you and get on with your life."  His words were quite surprising considering they came from a decorated WWII infantry captain.  I guess maybe he'd seen for himself, some of the historic times when this nations government betrayed it's veterans.  Maybe he was trying to spare me some disillusionment & disappointment down the when the VA suddenly stopped paying the vocational trade school I was attending 20 years ago, after promising to pay for my continuing education with the GI Bill.  Broken promises, a sad habit indeed! I had to take on two part time jobs to keep the school paid, and graduate; and the sting of that betrayal has never been forgotten.

I decided back then to not pursue getting my benefits from the VA, despite seeing other vets I knew who did, and were getting very nice compensation.  Had no reason to ask for benefits because I was young & strong, and determined to make it or not on my own merits rather than depend on handouts from the government which I already knew could be cut off without reason or notice.  The Navy takes care of it's own - Balderdash!  It took a few years, but I eventually came to understand my father's words at the airport that day. 

Fast forward 40 years to 2009, I'm forced to reconsider my aversion to dealing with the VA by a surly mob of health issues which are impacting my life negatively.  Having pretty much worked for myself the majority of my adult life; my retirement plan sucked, leaving the VA the only game in town.  The one good thing I can say about the VA health care system is that you can still receive medical care before your benefits claim is finally determined.  Good thing too, because it took them a full year to finally consider my claim; and then they summarily denied and dismissed it categorically.  I filed an appeal with the VA, which ten months later was denied also, they said I took too long to file my appeal. 

Another year goes by and a fellow veteran asked me if I had gone thru the DAV, (Disabled American Veterans) when I submitted my previous claims.  I had not, for whatever reasons, and soon learned they can be a powerful motivating force upon the VA system, especially with getting benefits approved.  So, I began the process again, with all the exact same data & information, letting the DAV advocate on my behalf.  Almost a full year later my claim was approved.  Nearly 4 years after I first requested the benefits guaranteed me by federal law.  In that time I have seen firsthand the staggering incompetence and Orwellian bureaucracy that is the VA health care system.

To begin with, no VA computer is allowed to have any data transfer device attached to it, such as a flash drive with X-rays and medical history on it.  The VA also prohibits doctors and veterans communicating thru email, or other electronic means except telephone.  Has a way of really slowing the whole works down to a crawl, like I said, intentionally.  My first VA doctor was from India, every time I saw him he was on crutches & looking sicker than me.  He died.  My next VA doctor was a young fellow from Pakistan with who I had what can only be described as infuriating language barrier issue; he didn't speak English as far as I could discern, and consistently gave me the wrong medications.  After six months of that insanity I went to the head of the clinic and insisted on being assigned to a new doctor, one who spoke English!  They did exactly as I asked and assigned me a new primary care physician...five months later!  That's five months of being told I must wait to be assigned a new doctor each time I called for an appointment, or to renew medications.  That's just childish, and vindictive.  Whatever happened to "first, do no harm?"

While I'm on the subject of my local VA clinic, it will perhaps help to gauge the sheer scope of the insanity there to see a couple of pictures of the place.  It is a nice, newly built place with a couple acres of beautiful parking right in front of the main doors; which is vital for those with wheel chairs, walkers and crutches - which is most of the traffic on most days.  The trouble is that all that unpaved ground was used to make the veterans peace garden or some shit, which is by the way, roped off and off limits to veterans!!  Meanwhile those with mobility issues, and everyone else must first park in the undersized space allowed alongside the building and garden; then make their way thru the parking area, then down a long sidewalk that resembles the Bataan death march, just to reach the front door!

Wanna know why so many veterans are in wheel chairs & powered scooters?  It's because the VA health care system put them there with repeated botched surgical operations.  Many VA hospitals are designated as training hospitals such as the San Francisco VA medical center, where aspiring inexperienced surgeons are encouraged to hack away until they get it right.  The reason this is permitted is because none of them are held legally responsible for the errors they make in surgery.  A year ago I narrowly escaped that place with my life, following a third botched operation on my legs. The surgeon who was on the schedule to operate was one of the best they have, I know because I Googled her and saw the many achievements and acknowledgements in her career.  At the last minute however, they gave the knife to some greenhorn cutter who again botched the operation, keeping their record of failure near perfect.  And my friends don't understand why I refuse to ever go there again. 

You see; it isn't just the scheduling of appointments, and approval of claims that is backed up and's pretty much the case with the entire VA health care system.  Three trips to the VA hospital for major surgery have made me a veteran of a whole other war being waged against the veterans this country creates with such total disregard.  I have yet to see a nurse call button that actually works, I always have to make them bring one in and show me the thing actually working.  You have a finite number of people trying to provide medical services; (most of whom don't really know what they're doing) to an ever increasing tsunami of injured, traumatized veterans.  The demand for those services grows greater with each passing week, yet with no additional staff to cover the workload, so the system is constantly in a state of near gridlock on some days...and that's just one hospital.  Some are much worse, such as the Walter Reed scandal from a few years ago.

This over-run and swamped medical system is just a breeding ground for mistakes, incompetency, and malpractice.  No oversight, no accountability; just make the numbers line up right on paper.  There is a certain look a soldier gets when he's been too long exposed to combat, and the horrors it devastates you with...they call it the thousand yard stare; you expect to see it on the returning veterans but it's downright scary to see that look on your hospital staff.  Leaves you with the feeling you need a cab ride back home pronto.  What it all comes down to is compassion and dignity.  With the VA health care system failing systematically nationwide;  compassion & dignity are the first casualties.  After that each new veteran is just another numbered piece of meat to process & oppress.  The recruiters lie to get you to join up, the commanding officers lie to get your obedience, and they lie when they say the GI bill will pay for schooling.  They lie.  Keep that in mind if you are someone considering joining up.

I said this debacle, this neglect is intentional, and it is.  Combat veterans have a very exacting skill set, and are plagued with many issues upon returning home.  They know the things that have been done that the powers that be wish to keep secret.  If organized, veterans could represent a very powerful voting block in every election, one which could perhaps bring about serious change.  If outraged, those same veterans could represent a most powerful armed force within this country; if pushed too far.  So you see, on every level it is in the interest of the power elite, the one percent, to keep these vets heavily medicated, and totally neglected, until they all just finally die.  Like I said, deliberate and intentional incompetence.    

I find myself of two minds on this latest VA scandal: on the one hand I certainly empathize with those who are being forced to wait for months just to get an appointment; yet on the other, knowing the kind of hellish nightmare they're attempting to gain access to ~ I want to warn them not to do it!   It's not just that VA employees are gaming the system to look good on paper, the VA is gaming all of us...going through the motions with talking heads and bullet points to give the appearance of giving a shit.  They don't.  They never have.**

The VA modus operandi is to deny, delay, discourage; dragging their feet and obstructing the process whenever possible, to keep from having to pay out benefit checks.  They want to keep that money, oh how they hate to give it away!  Remember that this is the same government that exposed WWII soldiers to atomic radiation just to see how it would affect them.  The same government that sprayed Agent Orange (known carcinogen) on it's own troops as well as the Viet cong; then denied it for years until at last they could deny it no more.  Just like everything else they do. 

The lies are the greatest insult of all.  For Obama to stand there pretending to be mad alongside the expressionless head of the VA who for some insane reason still has a job, lying through their teeth with every word they say.  It really makes sense that the government wants to wipe all us veterans out - after all they taught us how to fight, to kill without compunction when necessary.  They don't want us coming for them in the night, they fear us...and we've all seen what they do when scared.  Like I said, it isn't pretty!

How vile and disgusting are all the corporate scumbags to use Memorial day as an excuse to have a "sale."  Honor the fallen soldiers of all our wars by running out and buying a new Toyota!  Never mind that the people we're supposedly  commemorating have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with having a new car, or any of the other garbage being sold in memory of America's fallen heroes.  But the honor of the worst memorial day commercial goes to the makers of The Kraken black spiced rum who filled the screen and evidently their bottles with a black, slimy concoction that looks like it was scooped out of the gulf of Mexico.  Americans; they'll buy anything!

We shouldn't really be so amazed at the monumental failures at the VA that keep surfacing.  Just look around you, everywhere the wheels are coming off, the facades are falling, no longer able to support the lies and illusions that have kept us sleepwalking through this incarnation.  How much more has to collapse before our very eyes before we realize it's already too late to "save" it, as if it was worth saving to begin with?  Did you notice that faint vibration underfoot recently, don't worry it's not an earthquake this time, just those old dead soldiers restless in their graves.

I want you to all stop and ponder this for a moment or two...Seeing how the government regards and deals with it's veterans, do you really believe you'll be treated any better?  If the answer is yes then I suggest you may be in for a very rude awakening just any time now.  An excellent example is this abomination they call ObamaCare.  After all the childish, vindictive and pointless hysteria some version of it gets passed into law.  Not only are Americans now legally required to participate in this charade, (even though it doesn't work) but the government cannot even find anyone competent enough to design a website that works for shit.

Congratulations America, ObamaCare is VA health care for civilians!

May the Source be with You!

Jon Stewart exposes historical gov't betrayal of Veterans

Politicians JOKE about dead servicemen and children

More Jon Stewart on national VA disgrace

A Veteran speaks out about his ordeal with the VA

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Corruption Seduction

Most of us were still very young when we first began seeing that the world is not run according to how our parents & schools insist it is.  The process is called becoming aware, and it heralds one's approaching entrance into adult society, and the matrix.  Just as we eventually had to forgive & forget childhood lies such as Santa, and the tooth fairy; every day in adult society we are silently expected to act as if society is everything it isn't.

When I was a teen, a pal and I had gotten pinched in some harmless mayhem we conjured up.  When mom was just too exasperated to continue berating me she rested her case with the all-American classic, "Just you wait till your father gets home!"  Actually I was rather looking forward to that particular confrontation on the merits of right & wrong.  Dad was well employed by a national corporation as a fleet representative; meaning that he sold all manner of heavy trucks and equipment to city & state governments across a six state region.  Dad was on the road a lot, sometimes three weeks of every month; and in that week he was home he and Jack Daniels would go on for hours about how filthy dirty and corrupt his industry was.  Payoffs, kickbacks, bribes, sometimes even intimidation; not to mention the wild drunken weekend parties field reps were expected to host for their prospective clients.  Yeah, great role model for integrity!

Corruption. It is everywhere we look, in every level of society from dog catcher to top dog.  Whether it's price gouging on the goods you sell, or selling wars of conquest with a pack of transparent lies; corruption has not only assimilated human culture, it has indeed become the very foundation on which all else is built.  The system isn't broken, it was intentionally designed to function as it does.  The fix is in, you really can't fight city hall; and you as a citizen cannot sue the government of the united states, unless it grants you permission to do so.  And still, we just silently accept this dystopian nightmare generation after generation.  We're not being so complacent because we think it will all some day go away, no...we're mostly just holding out long enough to get our own share of the pie, because everyone knows that the merits of fair play are for fools.

Why in the hell should a kid stay in school, study and fight uphill to make something for himself on minimum wage (if lucky); when he can sell drugs on any street corner in America and make hundreds if not thousands of dollars a week??  This is the mindset that undermines the illusion at every level.  Those are real, tangible dollars - and it's so blessed easy!   Whether on the street corner, or in the executive boardrooms high above; the promise of quick riches and a shortcut to success is all the temptation most people need to forsake any claim on integrity, and follow the siren song of corruption.  Some people resist the temptation longer; until some unexpected emergency arrives along with the opportunity, and their "little voice" inside is telling them that everyone else is doing it so why not?

Where the psychopathic executives & politicians never spend a moment reflecting on how their corruption affects people; the average person with a basically good heart gets consumed with such thinking.  Why not cook the books a little, or hide assets, or push thru a deal that turns your stomach - if it's the difference of whether your family eats or not, or even has a home?  The very pervasiveness of corruption constantly seeks to suck in all within reach just like a black hole.

 There are of course many who never succumb to the allure of corruption at all, but instead are screaming their lungs out in the fight against it.  We never actually see these folks though, being as the system routes them to the psychiatric ward straight away.  They're still chasing after Michael Moore.  Along with you can't fight city hall, we hear other mantras of conformity such as Don't rock the boat, and of course the old standard, Go along to get along.  Standard programming for the masses from the great shining lie.  Subconsciously we use these mantras to ease our conscience each time we are tempted & tainted by corruption.  We know that lying is wrong and that we should never do it; yet the average person cannot get thru the week without at least a couple of little white lies tossed into the mix for whatever motivation.  When our politicians and corporations are never held accountable for the world class lying they do every day the average person has a hard time drawing the line.  It has become part of our society to lie and deceive: so much so in fact that at any given time the average person is just two decisions away from benefiting from corruption.

Of course corruption is nothing new, I for one suspect it has always been a part of human nature.  Mozi (470 BC - 391 BC) was a Chinese philosopher during the hundred years school of thought period, in the era of warring states.  Founding the school of Mohism, Mozi fought against corruption and for Humanism & freedom of the individual.  He emphasized self-reflection and authenticity rather than obedience to ritual and dogma. Lamentably Mozi and his teachings did not survive the burning of books and burying of scholars when the legalist Qin dynasty came to power.   

As a modern day example take the city of San Francisco; which sprang up from nowhere as gold fever gripped the world 165 years ago.  The man who started the gold rush was a fellow named Sam Brannon, who was the consummate entrepreneur of his day.  Before spreading the word about the discovery of gold in California, Sam Brannon arrived in the camp that would become San Francisco and set up a mercantile hardware store specializing in the tools needed for gold digging & panning.  Brannon built a monopoly, ensuring his was the only store where miners could get supplies.  He would even row out to meet arriving ships; and if the cargo contained mining supplies he'd purchase the entire lot for himself.  In time of course his greed grew even more, so he began expanding his business holdings until he owned every major business in the San Francisco of 1849.   

You see it is the very nature of corruption that it cannot permit any opposing voices; because those who corrupt know full well that if fair play & honesty were invoked they would never stand a chance.  Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!!  Take Monsanto for example; if GMO's are healthy and harmless as they claim, then why is everything they do shrouded in secrecy and corruption?  Why did they seek & receive immunity from prosecution or lawsuits?  Why is Monsanto so heavily entwined into our federal government?

If they gave prizes for corruption, without a doubt the Veterans Administration in Arizona would be near the top of the list for their recently discovered habit of keeping two sets of waiting lists for those needing medical help.  They had the original waiting list of Vets, backlogged many months waiting for help, which was embarrassing for sheer incompetence alone - then they had the "magic" waiting list to show publicly that they were seeing sick & dying Veterans in a timely manner!

Corruption has infected & gridlocked political administrations around the world, as well as the corporations who seek to control them.  We all know this, but we also know we're powerless to stop it (as individuals), and that corruption tends to fight very dirty when called out, so we remain, the silent majority - keeping our heads low and just trying to have as good a life as possible under the prevailing conditions.  That's a little like pitching camp on quicksand.  You might be alright for a while but sooner or later it's gonna suck you in, then it's too late. 

Yes as individuals we may be powerless; yet in unity there is strength - and power.  Case in point: India and the Gulabi ~ "The Pink Gang."  In a society where women are considered to be inferior to men the crime of rape is a daily common place event in many areas.  This has been the status quo, so there is literally zero recognition by police and government officials.  Those who seek justice are ignored because those in power consider rape as a privilege; not a crime.  Outrage & frustration brought the local women together as a street level political action committee they named Gulabi, The Pink Gang.  With their membership growing astronomically these women take to the streets to protect women and persecute rapists; and they are becoming a growing social force in India.

Then there are those 200 kidnapped girls in Africa; taken for the sex slave market.  Hogtied by corruption and guilt, the government of Nigeria is moving at truly glacial speeds to find and free these 200 girls, as all their families can do is plead for their children to be returned.  Of course they won't be returned because they weren't taken for ransom but rather retail.  Sad to say that buying & selling human beings still exists in 2014 - even sadder to realize how huge that marketplace really is.  Money that big is nothing but motive with a universal adapter on it.

Corruption is getting away with shooting your lawyer in the face when you disagree with him, and as such Dick Cheney is undoubtedly the king of corruption; at least in this country, but he can't ease up because there are some in the shadows who by comparison make him look like a beginner.  Corruption is being a member of congress or senate making untold millions annually who consistently votes against raising the minimum wage so the defense budget gets all the funding it wants.  Corruption is silencing all voices of dissent & opposition, killing those who will not be intimidated.  Corruption is shooting a president out of office instead of voting him out.

What if corruption was a real, living thing of some sort; perhaps a tiny spore in the air that feeds on broken souls & tarnished integrity, with an ever increasing appetite for more?  What if this virus thrives with a human body as host, invading the brain where it can influence motivation and snack all day on those tasty hopes & dreams?  What if corruption is something like that, something not our fault, but some kind of illness without a cure?  It's a stretch I know, but anything seems better than admitting that greed & corruption are part of basic human nature.  We're always so good at obscuring the traits of humanity we find distasteful. 

In the end I suppose it makes sense to join the silent majority, don't rock the boat by trying to unite people against a soul killer like corruption.  A big waste of time really; because first of all when you call it out - corruption fights nasty, and if you try too hard to awaken your slumbering friends you'll soon be about as popular as a snake in a sleeping bag.  Bad way to wake up, so it's a lose/lose kinda situation all around.

Corruption appeals to a great many because it exploits another basic human nature; that of feeling better or more special than other folks.  Those who feel so superior also usually feel exempt from having to achieve great things in the traditional way of working hard.  Being so obviously special negates the need to play by "fools rules" anyway, so why not jump to the head of the line any way you can?  Maybe we're all mad here!

For the rest of us who haven't yet caught the disease there isn't much good news, our side looses folks to the other side every day as corruption has become the defacto currency of the entire planet.  Don't expect it to change, it never will.  If we are still looking for some kind of salvation it might help to remember two things:

Prayers are not always answered in the order received,
They can kill us but they can't eat us ~ That's Illegal! 

May the Source be with You!

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