Archive for November, 2013

Thanksgiving Dedication

November 27, 2013

This month, Lincoln’s words ring for us as we honor the 150th year since his Gettysburg Address. They ring for us anew as we begin to wake up and recognize that all people on this earth are created equal regardless of color, gender, age, intellectual, spiritual, or economic status.

In our slumber, we have allowed corporations and private fetishes to defile the earth and its people.  Too many have died, been persecuted, and demeaned.  Too much land and too many species have been ruthlessly destroyed.

Let us give thanks that we still have an opportunity to dedicate ourselves to the unfinished work of instituting a government of the people, by the people, and for the people that reverberates here in New Hampshire, the United States and the World.

Health Care Reform and Obamacare

November 13, 2013

While congress continues to role play an unconvincing fight between Democrats and Republicans, has anyone noticed that no matter who wins, the health insurance companies stand to make a tidy haul?

Is anyone surprised that health insurance companies cancelled so many policies? Built in to the Obamacare plan were enough clauses to expand coverage for which, of course, companies would continue to offer coverage, but at a gut wrenching increase in price for inflated coverage. People whose income is just over the poverty line are the most threatened if they trust their insurance companies. They’re already struggling to survive and risk being sucked into poverty unless they check out subsidies they are entitled to.

While some of the health insurance companies have got to be laughing themselves all the way to the bank, alert state insurance commissioners like Kentucky’s Sharon Clark know how to pull the rug out from under the sting of companies like Humana. Humana sent out letters that encouraged customers to do nothing and their new policy would include all the Obamacare requirements (but at a much higher price they would learn of later.) Kentucky not only fined Humana for sending out misleading information letters to customers, they freed 2200 respondents from their obligation to Humana and allowed them to shop for insurance through the Obamacare with a start date of Oct. 1, (for a much better deal), according to Dylan Scott of Reader Supported News.

Also in the news this week was the World Happiness Report 2013, put out by the Earth Institute at Columbia University, which identified six factors that happiest countries have in common: a large GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy at birth, lack of corruption in leadership, a sense of social support, freedom to make life choices, and a culture of generosity.

Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands and Sweden topped the list. In Denmark, health care is a civil right, Danes feel a responsibility to each other reflected in a high rate of volunteerism. Danes create a real sense of belonging as a civic duty that includes economic security and a work-life balance to support it. Happy countries have very little direct involvement in war or other conflicts. US ranked 17th on the list.

We would do well to learn from happy countries as we grapple with health care, food, water, energy, education, employment, and environmental issues that affect us all. What would it be like to see a drastic reduction in the unemployment, terrorism and chronic illness that we allow to keep us bumped down the line?

Costs of War

November 13, 2013

This column is written in response to a reader’s question of my assertion that “we train our service men and women to kill innocent children and others, to destroy their homes, their communities, their water supplies, the simplest rudiments of living,” in my recent PTSD column.

It is a known effect of war that many civilians, including children, will be killed as a result of training in how to kill whatever is perceived as “the enemy”. It is my opinion that we’ve got to stop glossing over the questionable reasons for war and face the fact that many civilians, including children, now live in fear of US attacks, whatever reasons service people are given for their orders.

I recognize that we may not all come to agreement on issues facing us today. My hope is that we will each inform ourselves to the best of our ability and share what we learn. In my column, I include references and resources for topics covered that I hope will stimulate responsible thought. I appreciate reader feedback that keeps me on track as well.

Cost of Wars is a study put out by the Watson Institute of International Studies at BrownUniversity. Codirectors of the study were Catherine Lutz, Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at BrownUniversity and Neta Crawford, Political Science professor at BostonUniversity. Here are three sources that report the findings of the study: http://costsofwar.org; http:/news.brown.edu/pressreleases/2013/03/warcosts; and http://truth-out.org/news/item/8238-the-real-costs-of-war.

The Cost of Wars study found that of the 224,475 total lives lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 136, 700 were Iraq and Afghanistan civilians. Sixty percent of the lives lost were civilians. Also cited were war related pollution that has affected Iraqis’ health with increased rates of cancer and infant mortality, and the toxic dust in military bases which contributes to increased rates of neurological disorders, respiratory problems and cardiovascular disease in military service members since 2001.

The team of researchers for Costs of War included Andrew Bacevich, Military historian, US Army Colonel 1969-1992, (Ret.), currently, Professor of International Relations at BostonUniversity. His latest book is, Breach of Trust: How Americans failed their soldiers and their country. He writes, “now that the war in Iraq has ended, Americans might ponder the question of what the loss of several thousand soldiers there signifies.” His son Andrew died in the Iraq War. Bacevich notes that his skepticism precedes his son’s death.

It is also a known effect of war that there is destruction of infrastructure, public as well as private buildings and homes, schools, water systems, and the basic necessities that we may take for granted here in New England. 146,000 civilians were wounded as a result of the wars, 40 percent of the total. 7,815,000 civilians became refugees and internally displaced people.

The reason many of our European ancestors came to the US was to avoid conscription. They’d had enough war. If we can recognize that the costs of war, (to the extent that we assert that while war may be an innate response to disagreements, war is not the best way to resolve our differences), then people will not have died, been wounded, or displaced in vain; they will inspire us to do better, to figure out how to best share this world together.

We would do well to ponder our next steps.

PTSD: A defining moment for the US

November 13, 2013

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, PTSD, is being bandied about through the news, with prejudices and misinformation confusing the issue. While there are many roots to PTSD, and they are often blatantly misrepresented, my concern here is with the PTSD produced by our continual wars that plague our returning veterans.

Our country expects veterans to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives, yet many then face insurmountable hurdles to receive the help they need to deal with searing memories of the acts of war and rebuild their own lives. We are at a defining moment in the US.

Despite claims to be bringing democracy to other countries, the reality that confronts us has more to do with the US need to control other countries. We have a long history of complicity in the elimination of democratically elected officials, i.e. Lumumba in Africa and Allendez in Chile, leaders who may have generated independence. We still seem to be after the natural resources a country has, and a lust for power over them.

We raise our children to respect others and then train servicemen and women to kill innocent children and others, to destroy their homes, their communities, their water supplies, the simplest rudiments of living. And then our veterans are expected to come home after however many tours of duty and get on with their lives. They bring unfathomable memories home with them along with the unanswered questions: Why did we have to do this to those people? How are their lives better?

For veterans, the final insult is to have themselves denigrated as having a mental illness that maybe started before they joined the military, or because they were using drugs that no longer helped block those memories. PTSD may not kick in for months or years later, when some new situation or interaction floods their mind with those memories, and  becomes unbearable, causes irrational outbreaks. To qualify for treatment, veterans must document specific evidence that their PTSD  is due to incidents which occurred during their tour of duty.

Currently, USA Today reports that there are 22 suicides per day among veterans of all ages. About 3,000 active-duty troops have killed themselves since 2001. NPR noted that while 95% of vets were seen as quickly as they were supposed to be, nearly 100,000 patients had to wait much longer. At the VA center in SalisburyNC, the average wait was 3 months.

The October 1 issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology cited a PTSD study, led by Eric B. Elbogen, of 1388 combat veterans, which found that 23 percent of those vets had been arrested since their combat deployment, due to difficulties dealing with their anger. The study also found that current VA treatment of PTSD did not include therapy designed specifically to reduce irritability. Evidence based treatment needs our ongoing moral and financial support to conduct and respond to such studies whether provided by the VA or privately.

Veterans often avoid treatment for fear they will be perceived as weak, or will be mistreated, or will have difficulty documenting the necessary forms for treatment.Calling PTSD mental illness is also seen as a way of attributing it to something other than the atrocities of war and confuses both the public and veterans in need of help.

Missing from the call to rush military aid to other countries is the call to fully provide the PTSD treatment programs our veterans deserve. Missing is the consideration that war may not be the best remedy for the world’s problems, given the overwhelming problems generated by war itself.

How might congress respond to a landslide of calls and letters prioritizing research and treatment for our veterans? Endless wars do not bring peace to anyone.

Contact information can be found at http://www.Senate.gov , and http://www.House.gov.