2019

July Fourth

We spent a lovely afternoon celebrating Independence Day with family and friends. Kids were swimming, adults were chatting, the BBQ was getting ready to grill our Kafta and the table was set out with all the delicious side dishes. It is how millions of American people celebrate this day, though, probably, with hamburgers and hot dogs rather than Middle Eastern dishes. Nevertheless, it is an occasion that all of us, no matter where we come from, or what we are cooking, share in and feel happy about despite the debate circulating in the nation as to whether President Trump should have, or shouldn’t have, coopted the celebration in order to give a speech and to celebrate our military power with tanks and an aircraft show. Frankly, I did not consider the issue important enough to arouse that much dander and get the stuffed shirts on our television screens to give their pitiful opinions 24/7. Emoting and overplaying is their unattractive forte!

Anyway, my heart was a bit heavy, even though I was enjoying our gathering. The reason is that on the previous afternoon – July 3rd. – I switched to C-Span2 and listened to testimonies given to the Home Veterans Affairs Oversight and Investigation Committee – with a nearly empty chamber and pathetic attendance from our corrupt politicians – regarding the Veteran Affairs Department. Those giving the heart-wrenching presentations were valiant and courageous whistleblowers of all ages, amongst whom was Jacqueline Garrick, Founder of Whistleblowers of America. To sum it up, there is widespread corruption in that Department; no proper oversight; no efficiency; stolen and misspent monies; cover-ups; cushy positions, perks and job security to abet wrongdoing, and so much more! Mind you, they were talking about some of those same corrupt department heads, supervisors, executives, officials and politicians whom we have already seen standing in front of Congress on multiple occasions, raising their right hand and saying: I swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. Seriously? Yeah, right! That Oath has become nothing but an intimidating tool applied on us ordinary people quaking in our boots should we find ourselves in a court of law. It certainly does not seem to apply to the high and mighty as we have seen them take the oath and then lie through their teeth time and time again!

Anyway, Rebecca Jones of the Project on Government Oversight, reported that when it comes to those who raise concerns “the VA’s retaliatory culture permeates the higher levels of the agency.” Minu Aghevli, who runs the opioid treatment program in MD stated that after raising concerns she was harassed, scrutinized and subjected to frivolous investigations in order to shut her up. Dr. Katherine Mitchell disclosed understaffing and inadequately trained triage personnel at the Phoenix emergency room and since then has been subjected to extreme and ongoing retaliation. Radiology technician, Jeff Dettbarn reported that in Iowa City veterans showing up for CT scans were notified that their appointments had been canceled as part of a national effort to remove outdated orders, but were never advised of this. Jeff was removed from patient care duties after disclosing his concerns.

All this was disheartening, to say the least, especially that the previous Administration, as well as the Trump Administration have known about this and have promised time and again, and again, to straighten things up. This country has been at war for most of it’s young life, and, specifically, we have been in the Middle East since that fateful 9/11day resulting in young soldiers who have come back missing limbs, suffering from PTSD and committing suicide while not being able to schedule an appointment with a doctor, a follow-up treatment program and/or proper mental and physical care. How can we allow this crime to continue while the corrupt MSM hardly ever speak about this, and while our corrupt elected officials are out to lunch? The real and obvious reason is that they are all heartless war-mongers cashing in on our relentless assaults and meddling all over this globe. Really and truly there is no more a conscience in the upper echelons of this nation, if ever there was one!

In 2016, the suicide rates amongst veterans were 22 deaths per day. 22 shattered young souls per day!

These are unbearable numbers, even though we must keep in mind that amongst the general population during that same year there were about 45,000 suicides. Researchers refer to those deaths as: deaths of despair. That is: mental disorders, desperate financial or other predicaments, opioids, alcohol, bullying etc. The highest numbers are amongst middle-aged white men. Quite sad!

Also, and equally importantly, Luis Alvarez, a former US marine, who was a 9/11 responder employed as a NYPD (New York Police Department) detective was diagnosed with lung cancer as a result of his efforts working at what has been designated as Ground Zero. He died in late June. He is amongst the many courageous emergency workers who are suffering from illnesses related to the World Center tragedy. Alvarez, with comedian Jon Stewart, who is an avid supporter of this cause, gave testimonies to Congress just before he died. He advocated for making the fund designated to support the health issues of those who had served in the Ground Zero clean-up permanent and not to have to come begging for it every time its term expires, which is what has been happening. How heartless of our politicians!

This country is always keen on manifesting its flag, standing up to sing the anthem, tying yellow ribbons around the oak trees, praising the military and our first responders, however, when it comes to seriously caring for them we are hypocritically absent! Tragic!

The next day after our celebration we were at a store that sold second hand books, vinyl records, used toys and made-in-China funny gadgets amongst which was a five-inch boxed doll/troll in the image of President Trump with standing up orange hair. It looked very funny! A forty-something woman – from Conservative Georgia no less! – was smiling as I held the box up so I engaged her, as I am prone to do wherever I go, and we started chatting, lamenting where our politics are; lambasting politicians, the media and their asinine behaviors; wondering where the nation, as well as our world, is going and whether we will all survive. She was especially concerned about her children and their future. I encounter this pervasive angst wherever I go, and, our planet, wherever one looks, seems to be a cauldron that is about to boil over and splatter all of us. Aside from the well-known issues regarding Iran, Venezuela, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Somalia, China, Russia and on and on of real and potential wars, we are still coping, amongst other things, with the opioid crises, insider/employee instigated cyber attack/scamming threats, immigration fiasco, and with daily killings and heartbreaking mass shootings on our US streets. In India, sectarian violence and raping girls are ongoing crimes. And, even in civilized, affluent Switzerland the women have taken to the streets demanding equal pay. So, too, women in civilized France who have also taken to the streets demanding that steps be taken to stop husbands from murdering their wives – apparently about 130 such cases this year alone! What is going on that our human avariciousness and evil have become so prevalent? That a millionaire, like Jeffrey Epstein, is cuffed and taken to jail after decades of trafficking women for sex – some as young as fourteen years – and hauling them off on his private jet (called the “Lolita Express?” How perverse is that?) and to his private island where he served sex and drugs, and who knows what other ills? How many other scumbags like him are there who, moreover, have access to our corridors of power? I bet you many of this nation’s hoity-toity are sweating over this lest their names pop up as the investigation proceeds! How does one explain this sick culture?

There is no leadership, not in our political establishments, not in our places of worship where the catholic Church is still mopping up its predatory messes, not in our corporations where corruption is prevalent and where the good of the all has been traded for the profits of the few. We have reached the 8 billion number world population figure and, aside from the looming climate disasters – and the mass migrations they will be causing – as well as inequality and injustice across the world, not enough of us are paying attention to what is going on. We are in grave peril, people!

However, what raises my hopes, despite a very bad domestic and global situation, is that if there is any country in the world which is capable of reinventing and redirecting itself it is right here in these United States where even now as I write this there are courageous, ethical, moral humans and conscientious whistle blowers– as well as Justice Department detectives and lawyers – standing up for what is right and daily challenging the status quo and the pervasive corruption, often at great risk to themselves. No other place on this broken planet is as equipped as this nation is to do this and to, perhaps, sooner rather than later, steer us, and the world, to safer and saner shores, because despite it all we are still a vibrant, brave democracy. Now I need a glass of wine to keep my hopes up until that day comes!

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2019

Tidbits

. . . And, sorry to say, not exactly the juicy, tasty kind. Simply food for thought that will, sooner or later, affect you and me – if it isn’t already. So, here’s my first tidbit: I was entering a retail store a while back when I saw a nicely dressed couple walking by me, she clutching a big box.

“They didn’t even look at us,” she says snickering.

“We sure got away with it.” He responds as they walked towards their car.

From their demeanor and words, I could only presume that they had just stolen a box which, from the looks of it, contained a dinner set. It was not the first time that I had witnessed retail theft, because in that same store I always find packages of stockings emptied of their contents and returned to the shelf. This incident, like many others, reminds me that there are many rotten people out there who are stealing, murdering, lying and being totally immoral and unethical. Ingrates like these are despicable!

Walmart loses about 3 billion dollars a year due to theft (a mere 1% of their profits, but still it’s awful, because we consumers end up paying for it, not Walmart). The US retail industry loses 50 billion due to mismanagement of inventory technologies, food waste, employee theft and shoplifting. We have always known that there is retail theft, however, seeing this figure left me absolutely open-mouthed!

Speaking of Walmart, and according to The Wall Street Journal, the corporation just settled a six-year long investigation by the US Government into how some of their managers bribed individuals in places like Mexico, India, China and Brazil in order to – as one example of their corruption – obtain permits for opening stores. US corporations abetting corruption, while having the temerity to speak in derision about corruption elsewhere in the world? Really? I am absolutely certain that they are not the only corporation indulging in corruption. Recent reports from Democracy Now regarding the inferior and tainted medications being manufactured in China, Vietnam and India which are then sold in our markets, and ingested by us, are absolutely horrific, pretty depraved and another example of how greed and corruption end up affecting all of us. Add to this, and as per The Intercept in an expose about Maine farms – surely not the only ones – that spread sludge as a fertilizer which is found to contain high levels of PFAs, PFOs, PFOAs, PFBs all of which are a toxic/carcinogenic class of compounds that corporations such as DuPont and 3M use plenty of, and which eventually find their way into many of the food products that we all buy from our grocery stores and end up eating, as well as seeping into breast milk. Horrors! And then we all wonder why some of us are getting sick, and why there is something wrong with our babies? All these horrid things going on as the Trump Administration is reducing the oversight by the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and reversing all the regulations that have to do with clean air, water, etc. Yes, we are merely Collateral Damage to the whims of Runaway Capitalism that are bringing us closer to Extinction!

On another note, and another tidbit: as per an expose by Reveal News, 72 police officers in Philadelphia are on administrative leave while under investigation for belonging to a closed social media platform where they aired out their racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and other supremacist extremist views. Police Officers! The Law! Apparently, this is not only going on in Philadelphia, but across the country (recently there is an ongoing terrible case in South Bend, Indiana) and involving Prison Wardens, Sheriffs, Detectives and other law enforcement members. So it’s not untrue, or surprising, what minority communities have been saying about being unjustly targeted by corrupt police officers on a constant basis, nor is it shocking that the numbers of jailed, framed and murdered minorities, especially in the black community, is so much higher than those of white people. Incidentally, the police are even more savage in some other countries where torture, rape and extreme conditions are normal! This is pretty dismal and another manifestation of pervasive Planetary Injustice!

Moreover, I don’t care what the arguments or nonsensical justifications for our immigrant crisis are. I just know they’re wrong – very wrong. Politicizing this issue by Both political parties, as has been happening in this nation for decades, is absolutely and without question inhumane and immoral. Case in point, and one of the consequences of the politicization of this issue by Both parties, is the whole debacle that has brought us up to this disgraceful point of jailing little children and wresting them away from their parents as we throw them in slovenly cages! Barbaric, to say the least! A pox on Both Parties!

As for more on a corrupt political class that displays its dishonesty daily, Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader, is requesting approval for a cost-of-living pay raise for members of Congress – who make 174,000 dollar salaries per annum – in the amount of 4,500 dollars per Congress person. All this aside from all the perks they receive and the best Health Insurance Plan in the nation, plus all the millions in lobbyist bribes that they take in for their reelection campaigns. The Least that the Honorable and Wretched Hoyer could have done is insist on a similar cost-of-living pay increase for the millions of people who are working two jobs, have dismal health insurance, if any at all, and who can barely pay for their rent and groceries! Talk about how Privilege pampers itself, while debating a minimum wage increase for the millions! Corruption! Again, it is worldwide!

Last tidbit: I watched the Democratic Party Debates for two nights this past week, and here’s my prediction: if the Democrats continue expounding their sorry views on Immigration and Impeachment the way that they have been, they are going to lose the election, and they will have nobody to blame but their sorry selves!

This is just a sampling of disgraceful tidbits I thought of today.! There are stories like these, and much worse, going on every hour of every day executed by corrupt and greedy politicians, corporate honchos and powerful lobbyists all over the Planet. We are, indeed, doomed unless we boot out all this corruption and get involved with the courageous organizations and honest politicians who are trying to reverse these depraved doings! This will not happen overnight, nor by this coming election. This is a long process that has already begun and that should only be gaining momentum from now on.

Finally, there is no way to eradicate wickedness from our world. After all, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad and all the other Prophets failed miserably in this mission. I don’t know how we are going to fix this very broken world, but I recall these Words of Wisdom from abolitionist Harriett Tubman: “I could have freed thousands more, if they knew that they were slaves.”  Do we realize that this is exactly what we are when we continue to accept the unacceptable? A more just world has to apply the same standards of justice to everyone and across the board, whether it is justice towards the planet, or to humans whether they are friends, or enemies. The same old politicians, same old systems, same old methods, same old lies, hypocrisy and palliatives are not, and will not, work anymore. And, when you and I sit back and do nothing we are aiding and abetting that obsolete matrix which got us here to begin with!