Posted at 12:02 AM on February 8, 2008
by Bob Collins
From News Cut's "there's something you don't see every day department:"
A presidential candidate vying for the electoral delegates of Texas by playing air hockey on national TV, using a puck in the shape of the Lone Star State.
But for the most biting satire of the political season -- so far -- little else comes close to Jon Stewart's treatment of Mitt Romney's own words on Thursday, when the Republican dropped out of the '08 presidential race, and kicked off the '12 campaign.
The military has a reputation for being a bastion of conservatism. The media, it's safe to say, does not. And yet, the best friends veterans have had in the last year appears to be the media, which have been looking after their welfare, some argue, far more effectively than the people who are paid to.
The latest example is the work of National Public Radio, which uncovered a memo last month from an Army official in upstate New York instructing representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs not to help disabled soldiers at Fort Drum Army base with their military disability paperwork.
"To be tossed aside like a worn-out pair of boots is pretty disheartening," a soldier who didn't want to be identified said. "I always believed the Army would take care of me if I did the best I could, and I've done that."
The Army surgeon general denied any such instruction earlier this week, until NPR showed him the memo. On Thursday, a contrite Army Surgeon General Eric Shoomaker said it was all a misunderstanding, and he says the orders are out for the VA to help the soldiers who need it.
Q:What was so surprising was that the people you spoke with gave you an account that not only was different from the account in these documents and [from] others I've spoken with, but that almost could not have been more opposite.
A: I know. Isn't that amazing? It sort of speaks to miscommunication, doesn't it?
This, of course, is not the first time journalists had to push the military to the point of embarrassment to get it to live up to its promises to the vets.
The Washington Post uncovered the unacceptable conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital. And even eight months later, the paper found that some veterans were getting what they deserved, only if they were able to get a story about themselves on the front page of the most influential newspaper in Washington.
Days after The Post's Anne Hull and Dana Priest detailed the struggles of the former Army scout disabled by post-traumatic stress disorder, there were calls and visits from Washington, D.C. Mr. Turner's disability rating is being upped to 100 percent, care closer to home will be found and help is available to guide them through the labyrinth of regulations. Sadly, the Turners are not unique in the shabby way the country treats its military casualties.
In November, CBS News had to use a Freedom of Information Act request to pry loose from the Defense Department, information that active duty soldiers were killing themselves at a high rate. Then, CBS did what no government agency or state (and that includes you, Minnesota) bothered to do: organize all available data to learn that veterans were twice as likely to kill themselves as non-veterans. The reporting contributed to the development of a comprehensive VA strategy for preventing veteran suicide.
And only yesterday, the Associated Press uncovered a report from last year that showed veterans are having a harder time finding work than those who didn't go off to war.
The report blamed the poor prospects partly on inadequate job networks and lack of mentors after extended periods in war. The study said employers often had misplaced stereotypes about veterans' fitness for employment, such as concerns they did not have adequate technological skills, or were too rigid, lacked education or were at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder.
That story came two days after the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Bush administration has defended itself in a lawsuit, claiming that veterans have no legal right to specific types of medical care. The vets accused the government of illegally denying mental health treatment to some troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," old-time journalist Finley Peter Dunne said. Seldom has the American media distinguished itself more than in its dogged pursuit on behalf of the American veteran.
As the U.S. news industry declines, to the glee of its detractors, its oversight role of the government in these cases is a good reminder of why its survival matters.(3 Comments)
Police in Moorhead have released a study that shows American Indians are stopped by police more often if the officers know the ethnicity beforehand
“American Indians over 30 are more likely to be stopped than any other ethnicity over 30,” study author Mark Hansel said in today's edition of the Fargo Forum. “The reason for that is just not clear. It’s troubling in that it raises the possibility of profile stops, but it doesn’t prove it.”
The study, however, did not factor in the behavior of the driver nor the condition of the vehicle prior to the traffic stop. The study also involves a very small number of people, the study's author acknowledges.(1 Comments)
Political wags had raised eyebrows earlier this week when it was announced that Gov. Tim Pawlenty would attend the Munich Conference on Security Policy this weekend, a gathering of the world's top security officials. Because Pawlenty was to be in the company of Sen. John McCain, some suggested Pawlenty was burnishing his international credentials, and that the appearance of the two together on the international stage was indicative of McCain's interest in Pawlenty as a vice presidential candidate. Pawlenty is a co-chair of the McCain campaign. McCain has since bailed on the trip.
When Pawlenty offhandedly announced his attendance, he said he was invited because of his role as governor and chair of the National Governor's Association, noting the importance of security to the nation's governors.
Governors have rarely attended the gathering, and there's no record of an NGA chair ever attending. According to the conference's Web site, only one other governor has appeared on the list of participants in the annual conference, a list that dates back only to 1999. Last year, Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah attended the conference. Huntsman is on the NGA's executive committee.
"That not something we track here," a spokeswoman for the National Governors Association said this afternoon, when asked how often the chair of the NGA attends the conference.(1 Comments)