Saturday, March 17, 2012

Some Justice

Turns out that a high profile attorney and front page story in the Washington Post DOES work. About a month ago, I commented on a story about the widow of a Marine suicide victim unable to claim life insurance benefits because her ex-Marine husband failed to pay a couple of month's premiums because his PTSD caused him to miss paying his life insurance.

On Thursday the Post reports that the VA has decided to honor the policy after all.

Now if I could just pull off the same trick for all my veteran clients whose claims and appeals are languishing somewhere in the VA bureaucracy.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Local Hero

From Rachel's emails:

7 February 2003:
I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what's going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States. Something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don't know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I'm not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere. An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to me - Ali - or point at the posters of him on the walls.


[N]o amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can't imagine it unless you see it - and even then you are always well aware that your experience of it is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and the fact, of course, that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown. I have a home. I am allowed to go see the ocean. When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting halfway between Mud Bay and downtown Olympia at a checkpoint with the power to decide whether I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again when I'm done.

The details.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Local "Heroes"

Two days after learning that a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier murdered 16 Afghan civilians, we have a report that another JBLM soldier--a lieutenant colonel, no less--was arrested after threatening to bomb the Washington state capitol building here in Olympia and hire a hit man to kill his wife. I want to think things can't get worse but with this clusterfuck of a war I'd be a fool to think that.

Most soldiers don't do this shit but the string of "isolated incidents" seems to be getting awfully long. I'm beginning to think that the US Army is breaking down. Certainly the parade of traumatized vets I see at Coffee Strong would seem to suggest that.

Forty years ago, the US ended the draft in favor of a volunteer military because military leaders saw that an unpopular and seemingly endless war lead to a pretty much complete breakdown of Army discipline. That breakdown was fully evident during my year in Vietnam. They thought a volunteer professional Army would be immune.

Ten years of pointless war in Iraq and Afghanistan shows how wrong they were. This time the breakdown is not so much rebellion as it is sheer inability of human beings to cylce in and out of a meat grinder. The Coffee Strong statement says it all:
In 10 years of war, JBLM has produced a Kill Team, suicide epidemic, denials of PTSD treatment, denials of human rights in the Brig, spousal abuse and a waterboarded daughter, murders of civilians (including a park ranger), increased sex crimes, substance abuse, DUIs, police shootings of GIs, police violence toward protesters, differential treatment of GIs, and much more. These abuses are not because of a few bad apples, but because of the base’s systematic dehumanization of soldiers and civilians, both in occupied countries and at home.

Here in the south Puget Sound area we get to see the war's aftermath up close.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Winter's End Velo News

After three days of sunshine and clear night skies last week, the weather turned rainy and windy this weekend. The forecast was showers, rain and wind Saturday and Sunday with a "maybe" window Saturday morning if I go out early. Saturday did not look promising early but by 8:30 rain had stopped and the sky was a bit open. I was out by 9:15 heading west and north for The Evergreen State College, keeping a watchful eye on the sky. Evergreen's central plaza, Red Square, is exactly 6.66 miles from my house. While there, I pulled off my extra shirt; the day was turning out warmer than I expected. The sky was off and on gray and dark but no rain so far.

From Evergreen I went south on the bike trail to Mud Bay Road. The trail is deeply wooded and seemingly far removed from the parkway that it parallels. It has lots of twists and turns. I followed Mud Bay Road back toward town where it becomes Harrison, maybe two miles and the heaviest traffic I encountered. There's a bike lane almost all the way, except for the last 60 meters or so from Black Lake Road and Cushing Street where I turn into the neighborhood.

Once off Harrison I zig-zagged through southwest Olympia to the 4th Avenue traffic circle and down the ramp to 5th Avenue. The weather was still good so I extended my route to the Capitol Campus. The first rain drops began to fall but I was within a few miles of home, I figured could handle getting wet. I looped around Watershed Park, ending up on Eastside Street and home. Rain was coming down steadily if not hard by the time I pulled in.

Nineteen miles in all. It's been raining or very wet ever since. Today was predicted to be even wetter and windier. It's definitely windy but the rain has been off and on, interspersed with far more sunshine than we had yesterday. Then the clouds return and the rain comes sweeping in again.

With the Vernal Equinox occurring at 1:14 am on 20 March, Olympia has 197 hours (and change)of winter remaining. Actual spring weather may not be noticeably different, though.

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