Sunday, May 25, 2014

Our Continuing National Dishonor

"The Congress Shall Have Power To....Declare War....Raise and Support Armies....Provide and Maintain a Navy....make Rules for the Government of land and naval provide for the calling for of the provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States of America..."

--United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8

Notice the recurring theme here?  Raise and Support; Provide for.  Congress has the sole power to send America's citizen soldiers into conflict.  In granting itself that authority, it also obligated itself to see to the needs of those soldiers in return for their service.  Largely, and repeatedly, it has failed it's obligations under the Constitution.  The American soldier is underpaid and unappreciated by many whose decisions obligate them to undertake life-threatening risks for sometimes vague and questionable objectives.

As I'm sure you've seen and heard, there is (another) scandal at the VA concerning the medical treatment of our wounded veterans.  At first dismissed as a problem with one local VA healthcare facility, the problem has grown to include dozens of facilities all across the country, with whistle blowers recounting stories of abuse, sub-par care, non-sterile facilities, and inordinately long wait times.  Unfortunately, and to our national disgrace, these stories aren't new.  Word of the poor treatment many of our bravest receive at their exclusive government-run healthcare program has been out there literally for decades.  What's new, and even more despicable (if possible), are the new claims that, in order to make themselves look good and win bonus pay veterans needing the most care and those with chronic illnesses were put on separate, secret waiting lists.  The purpose of such lists was to enable the facility in question promulgate the illusion that they were seeing service members in a timely manner.  To be specific, law requires that a veteran seeking care be seen within 14 days.  In reality, the wait times often extended to months, and in some cases, even more than a year!

To date, it has been claimed that more than 40 American soldiers, men wounded in combat fighting for their country, have DIED waiting for an appointment with a doctor or specialist.

Contrast this with how those on welfare and even convicted felons are treated.  Law requires that inmates be given medical attention within 24 hours of any injury or complaint.  Welfare recipients and those on medicaid can go to any emergency room and be seen 24/7/365.

Where is the justice in that?

President Barack Obama has declared that he is "madder than hell" at these revelations and has demanded that an investigation quickly be conducted to determine the truth of these allegations.  When pressed by news reporters to answer questions about how much the administration and it's department heads have been aware of the issue, he demurs, saying he only recently became aware of this situation.

Really?  He only just now has become aware of big problems at the VA?  Isn't it odd? As a Senator, Obama served on a committee dealing with veterans and their healthcare issues.  He also made the treatment of our veterans a major theme of his initial campaign for President back in 2008.  In many speeches, he declared that he would reform the institutions that serve our disabled and wounded veterans, increase funding, shorten wait times, and improve care for those who receive injury while serving their country.  How has he done?  Let's see:

In 2009, there were about 423,000 claims at the VA, with 150,000 pending for more than four months (the "official" wait time it takes a claim to be considered "backlogged").  By 2012, claims had exploded to more than 883,000--and 586,540 of those sat on the VA's backlog list.  This, despite a promise by the President to reduce wait times to a statutory goal of no longer than 14 days and an increase in the VA's budget from just under $100B in 2009 to $154B in 2012.  Don't forget, this doesn't--and can't--account for the discrepancy  between the "official" wait times reported by the VA and the actual wait times recorded on their second, secret set of books.  Problems with wait times at the VA were reported during the middle of the second Bush term and an attempt was made to address them at that time, with an IG's investigation and recommendation of policy changes to deal with the situation and prevent it from continuing or getting worse.  In spite of those efforts, nothing really improved for veterans seeking care.  In fact, the Bush administration informed the incoming Obama transition team of the problem, warning them that the reports of wait times coming from the VA weren't to be relied upon.

To be fair, while the problems at the VA have exploded under the ineptness of the current Obama administration, the problems with the VA, in fact, with America's treatment of it's veterans overall, go way back.

In 1999, the average wait time for claims processing for veterans (including claims for disability declarations) was 166 days.  By 2002, the middle of the first George W. Bush administration, it took the VA an average of 224 days to complete claims.  In 2013, it was up to 923 days, an increase of 37% from 2012!  Don't misunderstand, I'm not saying that our veterans have to wait up to three years before being treated.  These wait times are an aggregate of all veteran's services, including disability claims and appeals.  It does, however, give a clear indication of which direction we're headed in.  In spite of the Obama-signed legislation directing the VA to see patients withing 14 days (the "official" wait time) waits of several weeks or months are routine and waits of more than a year not uncommon.

As I said earlier, such poor treatment of our veterans isn't anything new.  During World War II, many combat veterans returning with psychiatric disorders (now called PTSD) were lobotomized.  The U.S. government lobotomized at least 2000--like hundreds more--soldiers during and after WWII.  According to memos recently unearthed by the Wall Street Journal, the VA, besieged by psychologically damaged troops returning from the battlefields of North Africa, Europe and the Pacific, performed the brain-altering operation on former servicemen it diagnosed as depressives, psychotics, and schizophrenics (and, occasionally, on people identified as homosexuals). 

During the Civil War, soldiers on the Union side were induced to sign up by the offering of "bounties".  Essentially, promises of grants of property (land) in return for agreeing to join the fight.  Once they signed up, they were paid a wage commensurate with their rank.  Soldiers were supposed to be paid every two months in the field, but were lucky to get their pay in four month intervals.  Authentic instances have been uncovered where they went as long as six and eight months.  Pay in the Confederate Army was even slower and less regular.

We can take this back even further, to the Revolutionary War itself.  In the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783.  George Washington's soldiers threatened to wipe out the entire Continental Congress over the issue of their not being paid for their service in winning the war with the British.  General (and eventual first President) Washington acted swiftly to prevent such an atrocity.  On June 17, 1783 members of the army sent a letter to Congress demanding they be paid for their services.  Congress ignored them.  On the morning of June 20th, the Continental Congress in Philadelphia found themselves surrounded by as many as 400 soldiers demanding payment, blocking the doors and refusing to allow delegates to leave.  Alexander Hamilton persuaded the soldiers to allow the delegates to leave, promising to meet later to address their concerns.  Instead of addressing those concerns, however, a secret group of delegates, headed by Hamilton himself, drafted a petition to the State of Pennsylvania demanding that they act to protect Congress from the soldiers, threatening that, if the state refused to act, they would move the capital elsewhere.

We can see by these examples that the government of the United States hasn't ever really held all that closely to it's obligation to Support and Provide for those whom it chooses to send into harms way.  This needs to change.  We treat convicted criminals better than we do our heroes!  We actually have families of active-duty soldiers serving in war zones subsisting on welfare and food stamps!  This is no way to repay these men and women for their great, and in many cases, ultimate sacrifices.  Perhaps, finally, on this Memorial Day we can all collectively wake up and begin to honestly respect and honor those who stand between our peaceful lives and the chaos and violence of the rest of the world.

If we don't, we have no right to cast blame on government and the VA alone.  It will (continue to) be our national disgrace.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

What Are We Teaching Our Young?

Here's how a local paper begins it's article about Vermont's "Doodle for Google" winner:  "A creative and environmentally conscious fifth-grader from Winooski won a big honor....".  Right from the start, you see the coming slant.  "Environmentally conscious" has long been synonymous with belief in the liberal meme's of the various crises facing our planet, from the "crying Indian" of the 60's & 70's (newsflash, he wasn't Native American), to the "global cooling" and "imminent ice age" of the 70's & 80's, to the claims of the "destruction of the rain forests" in the late 80's, to the hysterical claims of the 90's & 2000's of "man-made global warming" which, thanks to the "mysterious" lack of warming over the last 20 years, has now become "global climate change".

I want to make one thing clear:  I am NOT denigrating the young lady's accomplishment.  Beating out the competition to earn the right to represent her state in such a nationally publicized PR event really is a big, big deal for a 5th grader.  Besides, her doodle is really quite good.  What had me and others pulling our hair out was a comment she made during her interview for our local CBS affiliate:  "The oxygen is running out on our planet, so it's good to have something to create that oxygen for us to breath." Penny Ly said.

Young Miss Ly has been taught that our planet is running out of oxygen and her solution is to create "artificial plants that could convert carbon dioxide into oxygen".  Pardon my cynicism, but didn't Mother Nature already take care of that for us?  And where in creation did she get the idea that the planet was "running out" of oxygen?

Liberal/Progressive environmental theology, that's where.

The theory of catastrophic oxygen depletion has it's origin with a leftist professor, Dr. Ralph Keeling, Associate Professor at University of California, San Diego and director of the CO2 Project at the Scripps Institute.  He has been studying oxygen levels in the atmosphere and within the oceans since 1989 and has illustrated his results with the "Keeler curve" (any jealousy of Art Laffer?).  He claims that his observations have not only confirmed his hypothesis, but also indicate that the oxygen depletion is accelerating at a dangerous pace.  As reported in an article with the alarming title:  Stunned Scientists Warn, World Could Run Out of Breathable Air,  "According to the data Keeling has meticulously collected since 1989 the world is running out of breathable air - and the rate that it's losing oxygen is now on the verge of accelerating."

Let me get this straight.  A "scientist" (I shouldn't use quotes, he has gotten his doctorate from established, ivy-league universities.  But still....) is basing a conclusion of such magnitude on a data set spanning less than 25 years?  I know that university professors survive on grant money and the best way to win grants is to come up with some world-threatening crisis, but come on.  This claim is obvious hyperbole.  Like everything else concerning the Earth's climate, levels of oxygen, nitrogen, helium and other gasses that make up our breathable air are constantly in flux.  To claim that a reduction over such a short span of time constitutes an emergency is ridiculous.  Of course, the good doctor is totally convinced that the trend is real and also that it is caused by man.  By the consumption (burning) of fossil fuels, creating CO2 that displaces Oxygen, eventually resulting in a planet uninhabitable by humans.  We need to ACT NOW!

Dr. Keeling isn't alone in his alarmist views.  As reported in a story published in the Weekly World News, a contemporary of the National Enquirer,  a Yale University-backed study puts it this way:  "Unless we find a way to rein in our carbon emissions very soon, a low-oxygen ocean may become an inescapable feature of our planet. A team of Danish researchers published a particularly sobering study last year. They wondered how long oxygen levels would drop if we could somehow reduce our carbon dioxide emissions to zero by 2100. They determined that over the next few thousand years oxygen levels would continue to fall, until they declined by 30 percent. The oxygen would slowly return to the oceans, but even 100,000 years from now they will not have fully recovered. If they’re right, fish will be gasping and squid will be panting for a long time to come.

Wow.  Just, wow.  First, everyone knows that reducing CO2 levels to "zero" is impossible.  Even back in the horse & buggy days we had "carbon emissions".  They also admit that reducing carbon emissions will have no effect on the level of oxygenation, that it will take over a thousand centuries for the oceans to fully recover (how do they determine what level "fully recovered" is?), and end with the tagline, "fish will be gasping and squid will be panting for a long time to come" in a blatant attempt at tugging the heartstrings of the uninformed reader in order to elicit an emotional, rather than rational reaction.

I decided to do what the authors of these articles neglected to do:  research other educated opinions.  Surprise, surprise, I found evidence of profound disagreement with these alarmist views.  Physicist Frank Heile answers the concerns of reduced amounts of oxygen produced via photosynthesis this way: "....short term fluctuations in the rate of oxygen generation in photosynthesis compared to the short term rate of oxygen consumption in respiration does not matter. The huge buffer of oxygen in the atmosphere totally damps out these short term fluctuations - it is only the long term balance of generation and consumption of oxygen which will make any change significant to the total oxygen content of the atmosphere. By long term I mean millions to billions of years! Any short term change in the atmosphere oxygen percentage would be insignificant compared to the ecological disaster of photosynthesis significantly decreasing on earth.  The disaster would be in the food availability, not in oxygen availability."

OK, we've got one source saying that even totally eliminating CO2 emissions would have absolutely no effect on oxygenation levels in the atmosphere and another who points out that it would take eons before any significant change in atmospheric oxygen percentage would even occur.

The magazine Popular Science also tackled the question of human activity causing the Earth to run out of breathable oxygen.  In the article, Will We Run Out of Breathable Oxygen if We Produce Too Much Carbon Dioxide?  Pieter Tans of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is quoted as saying, "Even if we were to burn another 1,000 billion tons of fossil fuels, we would only decrease the oxygen in our atmosphere to 20.88 percent."

Now we've got some numbers we can work with.  According to the NOAA website about 9 billion tons of carbon was burned in 2010.  Popular Science says even burning another 1,000 billion tons of fossil fuels would only produce minor reductions in the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere.  That's more than a century.  I'm fairly sure, if left to their own devices, innovative American entrepreneurs would come up with alternative energy sources long before then.  Oh, and to show just how minor the drop in atmospheric oxygen would be, current measurements of the atmosphere are:  78.09% Nitrogen, 20.95% Oxygen, 0.93% Argon, 0.039% Carbon Dioxide, and small amounts of trace elements.  Water vapor accounts for another +/- 1%.

Utilizing the basic math skills I learned in graded school, I come up with the following equation: 20.95% minus 20.88% for a total reduction of...............(drum roll please)........... 0.07% over the course of 100 years! Based on a microscopically (in geologic terms) small data set, we are supposed to drastically reduce our standard of living and submit to the demands of enviro-extremists and -extortionists that countries (specifically the United States) pay literally trillions of dollars to combat the menace of Global Climate Change.

The real danger in all of this isn't just the prevarication of our supposedly objective scientists, it's the indoctrination of our youth in a groundless ideology.  The generations who will someday lead our nation are being led astray by ideologues with a socio-political agenda.  If we don't put a stop to it, America will no longer lead the world in innovation, poverty stricken people in the third world will lose a significant source of funds for clean water, agriculture and animal husbandry and the last flickering of the Enlightenment, the movement & philosophy that gave birth to the idea that man is sovereign in himself, is competent to rule himself and has an inviolate right to live his life as he chooses will dim, and die.