Comment on WSJ article

It is a mistake to consider the VA as some kind of separate entity from the one that placed Scotty in harm’s way in the first place. The US government attacked a country that posed no threat to us (Iraq) and another entire country in order to find a relatively small band of loonies that penetrated the, supposedly greatest defense system in the world. All this when almost all of the attackers were Saudis; and that country remains our ally? Sheesh.

To expect more from the VA is to ignore the broad picture of a government that is too big and to focused on self preservation to simply preserve the individual rights of its citizens, which should be its only purpose.

Our Postwar Trauma at the VA

My husband was blinded in Iraq. At the VA rehab center, he was given books on cassette. Cassettes!

Former Army Maj. Scotty Smiley and his wife Tiffany.ENLARGE
Former Army Maj. Scotty Smiley and his wife Tiffany. PHOTO: AMBER GLANVILLE

On an April day in Iraq in 2005, my husband’s world went black.

It came by way of a suicide car bomb. In one second, all the plans we had—for a military career, children and a happy life—seemed to go out the window. Quickly we learned that the federal bureaucracy, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, that would determine so much of our future was not up to the job.

My first encounter with the military bureaucracy came days after I arrived at Walter Reed to see Scotty, a West Point graduate, after he’d been flown in from Iraq. This was the other side of the country for me, away from everything and everyone I knew. I was supposed to be on “orders” and receiving a stipend for food, but somewhere along the way someone filled out the form incorrectly. The man I spoke to said that it would be a huge hassle to try to fix it, which seemed ridiculous in light of all that had happened, but I just accepted what he told me.

We got by on Scotty’s first lieutenant pay and the generosity of friends and family. But there has to be a better way for our federal government to make it easier for the spouses, parents and siblings who have to quit their jobs and forfeit their livelihoods to care for an injured veteran.

My next challenge came when we entered the world of rehabilitation for the blind. Scotty was 24-years-old and had his whole life ahead of him. I knew he needed a center that would teach him new things, challenge him and give him the confidence that he would once again be a contributing member of society. We were promised customized care at a blind rehab center. Unfortunately, when we got there, it was clear that no one was ready to rehabilitate post 9-11 warriors.

Here’s an example. We kept asking for computer training because we knew that technology and computers were going to be key to a future of dignity and productivity for Scotty. So imagine how appalled I was when I was informed that computer training came last—behind belt braiding and woodshop. Also, he was given books on cassette. Cassettes!

Meanwhile, a wonderful church community in Georgia sent Scotty an iPod with tons of books and music already downloaded on it. What a lifesaver that was. It helped give Scotty hope that his future was not going to be braided belts and cassette tapes.

It should not be this hard.

Once retired, Scotty spent most of his days filling out paperwork to get VA grants that were offered—things like housing grants to adapt our home to be safer and more efficient for him. After spending a month filling out these forms and searching for and contacting the right people, my husband was informed that he was not eligible for the largest grant because although 100% disabled and completely blind he needed to be missing a limb as well to qualify. Needless to say we shredded the forms and chalked it up to another government promise that would never become reality.

In a world where technology is making almost all aspects of life easier, why isn’t there a website, a liaison, or an advocate to fill out government paperwork and get deserving veterans the benefits they were promised and deserved? When I asked for help, someone suggested we hire a lawyer.

Most recently, Scotty had an infection that needed emergency care. Upon arriving at the VA emergency room, which was packed, I noticed that there were at least four people behind the counter for paperwork. They informed us it would be a four to five hour wait to see a doctor.

As Scotty’s wife and caregiver, I quickly had to navigate staying with Scotty and a 3-year-old in a VA ER waiting room for five hours, then having to leave him so I could be home to get our kids off the bus only to return and pick Scotty up later. I was left wondering, what if I could not have left Scotty?

At every turn in this experience, this army wife has been asked to give more and more. Don’t get me wrong: It is an honor to serve and be a hero to a hero. But often I find myself thinking about the soldier who does not have an advocate. What about the private who does not have a spouse?

We’ve been running our own business now for about six years, and I know that any business would fail with these VA kinds of policies. We’re fortunate that we have options others do not. We bought his first talking phone, and now his iPhone that he uses like any other sighted individual; this solution worked for us, but I know there are many families that wouldn’t be able to afford to buy those things.

Our men and women who have sacrificed on the battlefield deserve better when they come home. So unlike others who worry that our new president is a businessman, this background gives me hope. Because unlike most federal agencies, the VA is primarily about dealing with people—customers. If Donald Trump hopes to make America great again, a good start would be making the VA run more like a business, and giving the customer what the customer needs.

Mrs. Smiley is a caregiver, writer and motivational speaker.

Fluid and Contradictory Policy

To say that a new president will save our country from the unstoppable growth of politics is wishful thinking in the extreme. We can hope, right? But there are two forces at play: 1. cronies aligned with the government pledged to preserve individual rights that forgot about that years ago. 2. Those who think entitlements are rights to the property of others and so to cut them off is theft. 

One has the government as its collaborator  and the other will fight to combat the so-called theft. Those of us who respect other people and their property are a tiny minority. That is not smug conceit, it is true. It all depends on what ownership is. The concept is mostly lost.

But, take heart. Things move slower than we imagine. We live in the best of times, coasting along on a grand history of prosperity through the freedom to keep what we earn(ed).

Thanks for reading and don’t be afraid. Your life is not threatened by the election of Donald Trump anymore than your Persian radiologist.

Prepare your offspring for the future, however.

Thanks for reading.


Fluid and Contradictory Policy

I’ll have to join the chorus describing politics in the USA as being bizarre. But I have to admit, not any more bizarre than in the past. We forget the politics leading up to any war or social program foisted on us for decades.

At any rate, I’ve just got to write about Trump to become relevant. His opinions are so fluid and contradictory, I’ve stayed away in a confused state. His protectionist ideas are at the root of my skepticism. We’ve got people calling themselves conservatives who rejoice at the thought of protecting inefficiency, at a cost to consumers that is totally ignored. I remember shopping for snow tires a few years ago, a week before President Obama slapped a $35 per tire tariff on Chinese tires. All tires went up $35.

The trouble with economic interventionism is that the further down that road we go, the less sense it makes. It’s like when I was caught lying as a kid. My dad said, “If you tell a lie, you will have to tell another one to cover the first one, and then another to cover those and so on. No one is smart enough to keep it all straight and you will get caught.”

Government incentives for business are also lies. Willing buyers and sellers acting in their own self interest is the truth.

These truths are extremely far reaching in today’s world. Trump’s picks for his bureaucracy show promise unless we step back and ask why these positions exist in the first place.

Andrew Puzder for Secretary of Labor, as an example, makes me wonder… Secretary of Labor? What’s he do? Make coffee, take dictation, set up appointments? We don’t need no stinking secretary of labor. Work there. If you don’t like it, work somewhere else. It is between you and your boss or employee. Only slavery involves a third party.

Puzder runs Hardees. My working life began at McDonald’s but Hardees’ food and service make McDonald’s look like an old Polack joke. There are two sides to labor. Having an extremely successful CEO is a plus for workers. Employment is mutually beneficial, despite what old world communists will claim.

As I write this, Trump’s pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price, has been exposed as sponsoring and co-sponsoring 44 health related bills in the House while trading more than $300,000 in stock in health related companies. This is another example where the overarching hand of government invites corruption. The issue is not the impossible task of controlling corruption but the need for so much legislation that makes that task impossible.

I’ll skip over Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State because his friendliness with Russia sounds so much better than war (I’m not invested in Northrup Grumman or General Dynamics). John Bolton as an adviser in that office is another matter. The guy wants to bomb Iran. Let’s get past the nonsense that Iran is the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Ask Madeleine Albright about what was “worth it” in Iraq. Were all those Iraqi children not terrorized as they perished under U.S. sanctions?

John Bolton will not be happy until each American’s net worth is absolutely equalized through a failed attempt by people like him to abuse our military into a Roman style world domination.

The funny part is that what Trump doesn’t like about Bolton is his mustache. What I don’t like about him is that he wastes his time shaving the beard. He could put that time to better use considering what The Prince of Peace might say in the matter.

Gridlock is the best we can hope for.  

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With all the BS about a revolutionary change in government…

Now is an excellent time for those who want to go to space to pay their own way. Trump’s pick for Attorney General is proving to be more of the same, advocating for continued crony capitalism. We are up against two sides that are nearly identical and posing as alternatives.

Privatize the space program for two reasons: 1. So it is more efficient and utilizes resources in a way that leaves available funds for immediate needs.  2. So people with no interest in space are free to do what they want with their own money. Shouldn’t there be a law against stealing?

Bring a Trailer

There is a website called bring a trailer. com. They feature an auction of their own and references to unusual cars for sale all over the world. Good place for a car guy like me. On this recent post by a guy whose wife sold her VW back to VW as a settlement for cheating on emissions tests, the hate was obvious. Others chimed in as well. What a bunch of chumps. I decided to comment as well:

“Run the numbers. NOx from a grilled burger is greater than an 18 wheeler going 143 miles. EPA standards are protectionism of cronies, not air quality. If the US had the same standards and percentage of diesel cars as Europe, it would cost oil companies $20 billion per year in fuel savings for consumers. We bought our Golf Sportwagen after the scandal broke (lease return) because we’d waited years for VW to get it right. There comes a time for civil disobedience. The damage done by regulations is far greater than that done by a clean diesel.”

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Long Winter Nights

Now that the country will be saved or destroyed by the new president, we can get on to more important stuff. Like sitting around and watching a movie. Since I’m an expert, here is a short list. I’ll give you all a chance to work through this and if the winter seems too long I’ll add some more later. Let me know if you have anything to say on these.

Image result for the 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared movie


Long Winter Nights

As stated in this space before, I dreamt of a career as a movie director. Despite having learned to call them films instead of movies, I never had the ambition to get a start in that direction. It was the art, not the business that interested me.  The art still fascinates me, and Dawn and I watch a lot of movies. We get them through a Netflix DVD plan. The streaming plan is too limited in selection for a movie nut like me.

Like any good enthusiast, I’d like to share some movies we’ve enjoyed so you folks can have something to do while escaping the cold weather.

Two dimensional war makes more sense than the real thing so I really enjoy a good war movie. And if it is a little deeper than good guy versus bad guy and death and destruction, Dawn and I can enjoy war together. “Winter in Wartime” (2008, R for language) is about a teenage boy in Holland who aids an RAF pilot shot down in WWII. Occupied Europe was a place where it was hard to tell collaborators from friends. One is safe during the occupation but vulnerable when the invaders are defeated. It is Dutch with English subtitles, so nineteen percent of high school graduates should skip this one. But if you can read, don’t let the subtitles deter you. Europeans naturally have a more nuanced view of war and we should pay attention.

When our son Karl was born, I called my dad and said we named him after The Marx Brothers. “Winter in Wartime” was as serious and thought provoking as this next one is hilarious. Diversity has become an end in itself and this list won’t need to move on after this next movie. The Marx Brothers’ “A Night at the Opera” (1935) didn’t need a rating. The Marx Brothers didn’t need to compensate for a lack of imagination with foul language, sex, or violence. If you don’t laugh all the way through this one, the coroner is on his way. The country was a third of the way through FDR’s Great Depression and needed this medicine badly.

Another great movie from the Depression era is “Tarzan and his Mate” (1934). This one is not rated. It is partially responsible for the advent of movie ratings, however. The violence is shocking and the partial nudity is artful and beautiful. The violence part is where I would advise parents to be careful with young children. The technology is ancient and amazing for its day. The story is timeless and captivating. Sensitive university students and professors better steer clear.

When I was a little kid I lived within a good bike ride of Will Rogers State Park. We used to ride up there and watch the millionaires play polo. This next movie is “Judge Priest” (1934, not rated) who is played by Will Rogers. You better see this one quick. The movie is extremely politically incorrect, full of cliches and reserved for those who have a sense of humor. The music is fantastic; the plot complex. The tendency of our society toward being easily offended has poisoned us with cultural handcuffs. Get together with a diverse group and set yourselves free.

Dawn spends a lot of time bringing joy to nursing home residents so this next one was particularly dear to us. Be warned, more subtitles. This is a Swedish movie with seven languages. “The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” (2015 R, some violence) is an adventure that is just fun. Allan doesn’t much like sitting in the nursing home so he leaves. The staff brings in his cake with 100 candles and found him gone. There’s even some computer generated content for the younger set.

I hope these films (see, I’ve become an elitist) help pass the cold nights a little faster as we head toward spring.

Sound the tocsin

About an hour to go of Pearl Harbor day. And keeping with my attempt at providing an alternative view here goes. FDR is revered by leftists who proudly proclaim themselves to be peaceniks. The thing is everything they desire requires the use of force; hardly a peaceful stance. War and the welfare state are inseparable. They both embody force over mutual consent.

My dad said when he was twelve he knew FDR would ruin the country. Well, we seem to be doing fine. But what we don’t see is what it would be like if common law had prevailed; if the energy spent on aggression had been spent doing whatever each party had decided together what was in their own best interest. We have no idea because before anything like that takes hold opportunists see the government’s monopoly on the use of force as a tool in their own drawer. And the republic is turned into a democracy, and the sheeple vote to enrich the opportunists.

Mr. Trump seems to leave war mongers on the table as potential cabinet members. The charade has left most with the belief they have done something. But all they have done is perform without pay in the drama depicting suckers. Things will go on as they have.

This quote from Henry Kissinger: “Military men are just dumb stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.”

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