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V.A. health care debacle is nothing new

In Health, National News, News Media, Opinion, Politics, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on May 27, 2014 at 8:06 am

DIH LOGOAs an organization that serves more than 9 million, it would be difficult to imagine a more complicated system than the United States office of Veterans Affairs (V.A.). Recent allegations of wrong doing within the V.A. health care system has erupted in congressional investigations and strong admonishment from President Obama, one of a half-dozen occupants of the Oval Office under whom this system has thoroughly failed its distinguished beneficiaries.

Naturally, the White House spin doctors tried to express the president’s astonishment and outrage over this issue with their typical press room song and dance. When he finally spoke about the matter publically last Wednesday, Mr. Obama said, “I will not stand for it. There must be consequences.”

Of course there was absolutely no mention of exactly what kinds of consequences.  Even more insulting was the way the administration has fained ignorance about one of the worst kept secrets in America – that there is a mind-blowing level of back-door politics and bureaucracy grinding away below the V.A.’s spit and polished façade.

In the 1992 movie, "Article 99," Kiefer Sutherland struggles to adapt to a broken V.A. system.

In the 1992 movie, “Article 99,” Kiefer Sutherland struggles to adapt to a broken V.A. system.

Critics of the administration are also using this crisis to, once again, lambaste Democrats over Obamacare, to which they compare the crippled V.A. medical system. Some of them have even suggested that the problems deep in the core of the V.A. health care system will eventually overwhelm Obamacare in a similar manner.

Plagued with technical issues and lackluster participation, the “Affordable Care Act” has not been the overwhelming success once envisioned. Legislating mandated health care coverage for all is one thing, but managing patient care based on politics is quite another.

But if you think it’s a stretch to compare the V.A. problems with eventual Obamacare snags, consider this.  Once the Affordable Care Act became law, the U.S. Government suddenly turned into a middle man for selling health insurance and controlling the care received by the patients. Keep in mind this isn’t a “Conservative vs. Liberal” problem. The simple lesson to be learned here is that the government should stay out of the health care business.

As for the existing V.A. problems, the congressional hearings so far have managed to do little more than humiliate the head honcho, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, a guy who, while maybe turning a blind eye to these concerns, most certainly inherited the majority of them.

Way back in 1992 director Howard Deutch released a dramatic comedy  called, “Article 99,” which followed a V.A. hospital intern played by Kiefer Sutherland who struggled to acclimate in ridiculously bureaucratic and money-driven system where patients are either denied treatment or made to wait months for life-saving procedures until it’s too late. In a style similar to Robert Altman’s original 1970 film, “MASH,” the main characters are dedicated doctors who regularly defy government rules to help get their veteran patients urgently needed care.

Set in present day – 1992, during the Clinton administration – “Article 99” exposes only a few known problems within the veterans’ health care system. Apparently, things grew increasingly worse.

Oddly enough, government’s treatment of veterans (of all ages) can often mirror the way in which American society deals with the elderly; by putting them off a few more times until they eventually die and the problem solves itself. Shameful.

Perhaps it’s time for the V.A.’s executives, congress and the president, maybe even Supreme Court justices, to be forced to wait a ridiculous amount of time for care. It’s a foregone conclusion that a solution would rapidly appear if the Obama daughters had to wait six months to get their tonsils out, or if John Boehner knew that coverage for some future tanning-induced skin cancer would be denied because it wasn’t a work-related condition. Instead, they enjoy free, top-of-the-line medical care, all on the dime of hard-working Americans, including veterans.

So what to do? Well making a blustering speech on TV is a start, but it’s also an overture to a lack of any real action. Firing the head guy is a gesture to appease the public but it’ll last about 12 seconds. Instead, the entire system needs a full shakedown. That’ll take time and money. Meanwhile, more veterans are waiting for treatment. Drop the bureaucracy and treat the patients, regardless of the paperwork and expense.


The Jamestown Comet editor, Gery L. Deer, is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, Ohio. More at http://www.gerydeer.com.




Godzilla: King of the anti-nuclear message

In Entertainment, Environment, Movies, National News, Opinion, Politics, Science, Technology, Uncategorized, World News on May 12, 2014 at 12:00 pm


DIH LOGOIn 1955, the Japanese film company, Toho, Inc., introduced America to “Godzilla, King of the Monsters.” The bulky, green monster terrified audiences in the marginally familiar form of an enormous T-Rex, with notable size differences, muscular body and bigger arms and all brought to life by a puppeteer in a rubbery body suit. Originally called by the Japanese word, “Gojira,” meaning “gorilla whale,” the monster was so successful he’s been a worldwide star since his first black and white appearance in Tokyo.

Uncertain how a Japanese film would fare only a decade after the end of World War II, American exhibitors insisted an “American” element be added to make the dubbed, foreign monster flick more relatable to U.S. audiences. So, who better to report on the devastation than one of the most trusted faces on television at the time, Perry Mason himself, Raymond Burr. Not included in the Japanese version, Burr played an American journalist reporting on Godzilla’s attack into a tape recorder from the safety of a nearby office building.

During the 1960s and 70s Godzilla made his way into color features where his ominous appearance was softened a bit and his character reworked a bit from a menace to more of a hero as he battled other creatures threatening Tokyo from Monster Island. His gigantic, “30-story” upright posture, signature stomp, glowing dorsal plates and fiery breath were a hit with movie goers around the world.

Gozilla's original appearance in Japan, 1954. He appeared in America a year later.

Gozilla’s original appearance in Japan, 1954. He appeared in America a year later.

In 1985, Godzilla reappeared in a more serious, direct sequel to the original. Although the monster had made countless appearances in other, sillier films, like “Godzilla vs. King Kong,” and “Godzilla vs. Mothra,” this reprisal brought Godzilla back to his roots – as a devastating, uncontrollable statement on the increasing nuclear scare at the peak of the Cold War.

Although it was no longer necessary to smooth over American audiences, Raymond Burr reprised his role from the original film in a few scenes added to the U.S. release to provide continuity and attract a nostalgic audience. “Godzilla 1985,” did well at the box office and even better in the newly-minted home video market.

Fast forward a few years to 1998, when the monster was licensed by Tri-Star Pictures for an American, almost campy, version set in New York City. Studied by a worm biologist played by the likable Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off / The Producers), Godzilla takes up residence in Manhattan and is hunted by the US Military who manages to lay waste to everything except their target, even wrecking the iconic Chrysler Building. A liberally-preachy, anti-nuclear storyline and a totally computer-animated Godzilla, that didn’t look or act much like the original, completely failed to lure audiences.

Over the years, Godzilla appeared in 28 films and an American cartoon show. He even achieved the honor of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But the origins of the character are deep in Japan’s nuclear pain and far more serious than most people might know.

Godzilla as he will look in the 2014 version.

Godzilla as he will look in the 2014 version.

Like the newest American incarnation set for release in May 2014, Godzilla is portrayed as a mutation directly resulting from nuclear testing, emphasizing the need to do away with these weapons. He was, essentially, the symbol of everything that can go wrong with nuclear power and weaponry.

The underlying message in the more serious Godzilla story lines is that use of nuclear weapons and power has unimaginable consequences. A mutation that can cause a giant monster with nuclear powered breath is a pretty good personification.

In any case, the new film is sticking closer to the original concept, not just in story but in the look and actions of the monster himself. He’s a rampaging beast and the addition of Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, adds another level of drama to a once-campy character.

In no loss of irony, Japan is the only country in the world whose people have experienced the horrible result of nuclear devastation and America is the only country who has ever inflicted it on anyone else. It’s somehow fitting that people from both countries come together to create a fictional character that personifies the horror that can result.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business contributor to the WDTN-TV2 program, Living Dayton. More at http://www.gerydeer.com.




Criminalizing rhetorical hyperbole in political ads

In Local News, National News, News Media, Opinion, Politics, Uncategorized on May 7, 2014 at 12:36 pm

DIH LOGOThere is an Ohio law on the books that prohibits politicians from making false claims against an opponent in election campaign ads. Recently, however, the United States Supreme Court took up the question as to whether the legislation infringes on free speech.

Although a dozen other states have similar laws in place, Ohio’s version has come under fire by a conservative group, called the Susan B. Anthony List, who claimed discouraged them from running advertisements against a pro-choice Democratic congressman. It’s likely the case will be kicked back to a lower court, but the implication of the argument leaves room for the exploitation of loopholes, like rhetorical hyperbole.

In general, the law makes it illegal to lie about a political candidate or ballot initiative. What’s left somewhat to interpretation is whether rhetorical hyperbole is permitted. That is, can statements be exaggerated to the edge of falsehood without actually crossing the line? Hyperbole would still stretch the truth, making hours seem like days.

For those who slept through sixth grade English, like me (I know, ironic, huh?), an hyperbole is an exaggerated statement or claim not meant to be taken literally. It comes from a Greek work meaning, “over-casting.” For example, you’re standing in line at the bureau of motor vehicles and you say, “This is taking forever!” Your ordeal in line is not literally going to be indefinite, but you express your irritation and impatience in hyperbole to punctuate your displeasure.

Politicians (and most other advertisers) use hyperbole in many ways. In an extreme example, imagine seeing a political ad where a pro-choice candidate is being attacked by a conservative group. The ad might say, “Congressman Bob hates babies.” Bob may be pro-choice, but no evidence is offered in the ad that he actually hates babies.

What about a conservative senatorial candidate painted as if she is, “going to overturn years of gun control” because she was photographed at a shooting range for a stump speech? In both cases, there’s no evidence given to support the claims but it could be argued that these statements are simple hyperbole and cleverly dodge the “no lying” clause of the Ohio law.

Until this kind of legislation was enacted, only commercial advertisers had to follow rules guarding the consumer against false advertising. Advertising agencies and marketing representatives sometimes find loopholes in the law, but generally color within the lines or risk paying severe (even criminal) penalties to the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.

So why shouldn’t politicians have to follow the same rules as any other advertiser? Really, they should. A politician has no more right to lie, or even grossly exaggerate, to the consumer than a toothpaste or fast food company. If anything, they should be held to an even tougher standard than someone selling milkshakes – but that’s not likely to happen.

President Richard Nixon has remained one of the poster children for lying politicians. But they ALL do it.

President Richard Nixon has remained one of the poster children for lying politicians. But they ALL do it.

Is it a violation of free speech for a fast food chain to be restricted from promoting their food as “healthy” because a burger contains less special sauce than the competition? No, it’s not; plain and simple. If legislation can be enforced to protect the public from losing $3 to a misrepresented health claim for a hamburger, why shouldn’t the law prevent the potential loss of millions of taxpayer dollars to a dishonest politician?

Then again, most people, if asked off the record, tend to believe all politicians are dishonest. But, dishonest or not, misleading the public in an advertisement is fraud and probably should be criminalized.

The idea of rhetorical hyperbole being some kind of back door to the law should also be addressed. Exaggeration is still misrepresentation because more often than not, the jelly-brained voter out there tends to take things more literally than they probably should.

Regardless of advertising content, the final decision about the truthful nature of our politics is made at the polls. Voters must be proactive and learn as much as possible about the candidates and issues before dropping their choice into the ballot box. In a democracy, you have the power, use it wisely.