Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's Whine Time

Dammit, I have a cold. So what, you say? This is what:

11-1105 I quit smoking.

01-30-06 I got a strep throat. 02-20-06 I got a cold. In Mar 07 I got another cold; I have one now.

What's the point of quitting? I hardly ever got colds the whole 40 years I was smoking. In the Spring of 06 I bought some smokes and tried them. They tasted awful. So here I am, stuck with a yearly cold and 45lbs of excess flab.

One more whine. The spell check on blogger has quit. I guess I get what I pay for.

BRB is Write(and pissed off between bouts of mucus clearing)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

"It's Baseball, Ray"

Spring training has arrived and for baseball fans such as myself, it's a great time of the year. We get speculations upon speculations on how teams will do, how the stars will produce, which rookies will make a difference, and now, in this era, who is juiced, who may be juiced, and who must be juiced.

When I was a kid, the Dodgers left Brooklyn and came to L.A. I was already playing kids' ball in our local rec league. Not only did the Dodgers show up, so did the best baseball radio play-by-play announcer ever: Vin Sculley. I listened to him doing my homework, on the road with my folks, in Dodger Stadium while watching Don Drysdale knockdown batters and win games. I saw Sandy Kofax strike out 18 Cubs and heard Vin Sculley call the action at the same time. The stands were full of fans with the ubiquitous transistor radio. I fell asleep hearing him sign off: "This is Vin Sculley along with Jerry Doggett saying goodnight from Dodger Stadium, as the Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the San Francisco Giants 4 to 3."

And now we have ballplayers in front of Congress testifying about steroid use. I just wish Congress would go away and let baseball take care of itself. It has in the past and will continue to do so in the future. We don't need a room full of grandstanding politicians trying to impress us with their power, ignorance of the game, and general lack of any sense of what's important. The country is at war, we have economic problems and Congress wants to know who used steroids. This is an appalling waste of time and money.

Baseball has survived gamblers and cheaters. Field of Dreams starts by trying to explain how gamblers tried to corrupt the game and failed, and even made if not martyrs at least heroes of the 8 Sox players. We've had spitballers in the Hall of Fame and drunks winning batting titles and pitching no-hitters. Steroid users are called cheaters; they degrade the game say some. I say no they don't. Before testing anyone could use steroids; I cannot see punishing those who chose that path. It was available to all who wanted it.

Ty Cobb was a mean-spirited, bigoted thug, yet he is in the Hall of Fame. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire will never make it because we suspect they cheated with drugs. Yet when they had that great home-run race we all stood and cheered. Baseball is full of stats and hypocrites: maybe we can't live with both, but baseball will survive both.

What we cannot live with is our elected representatives posturing in front of cameras in the name of saving baseball. "We have to do this for the children" some say. Crap. What greater lesson can a child learn than his/her hero is human and took advantage of the situation or cheated? Like the poor, cheaters will always be among us.

Yes, Ray, baseball will survive as long as we value team sports. The game has been altered somewhat (the despicable designated hitter rule, e.g.) but it is still baseball. It's the only major sport where the defense controls the ball. There is no time clock. Each side gets the same number of chances on offence. But you know the uniqueness and timelessness of baseball, and others have said it better.

Just for now, I would like Congress to get out of all sports, and as Mad Max says on Johnboy and Billy: Congress critters get out of baseball, stop posing for cameras, get back to work, and quit ruining my life. Y'all have a good day.

BRB is Write(and still loves Baseball. Hurry up April 1)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Bits 'O Honey

Just some tidbits from BRB Land:

Number one grandson had his first birthday on Wednesday. He just keeps getting more and more interesting as he gets older.

Number two grandson, Jack, is now full-term and is waiting for the most inconvenient time to drop in on the PDB household.

The only car we have had for the last four years, one Toyota Corolla DX, has hit the quarter million mile mark and is still going.

We have a family gathering this weekend that promises to be Great.

That's all for now.

BRB is Write (and life is good)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

So Where Are The "I Support Our Veterans" Ribbons?
The Veterans' Administration always seems to swamped by claims. It wasn't always this way.
When we had to draft folk to fill the needs of the military, we also had the G.I Bill of Rights. It provided for things like guaranteed mortgages and education benefits and medical care and disability pensions. Many of us didn't use all the benefits that were available. My education benefits arrived in a timely manner. The backlog of claims wasn't what it is now.
Ever since we went to an all volunteer military the VA has been buried by claims. One reason for this is that after the draft ended in the 70s, a G.I. had to enroll in a program to receive benefits and had $100 a month deducted from his pay for the first 12 months of that enlistment. If I had had a $1200 co-pay deducted before I even had a claim, I would make damn sure I would have claimed all benefits I thought I qualified for and perhaps some I was not entitled to receive.
There are other reasons for the backlog of claims, I'm sure, e.g. budget cuts, lack of priority, etc. Here's one thing being explored to help eliminate the backlog:
From my favorite Veterans' Bulletin:
VA Claim Backlog Update 14:
"Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence could help the Veterans Affairs Department reduce a backlog of disability claims that has spiked past 1 million, according to computer experts and veterans advocates. The Veterans Benefits Administration, which processes the claims, has a backlog of 650,000 pending claims and another 147,000 that are under appeal and working their way through a process that "is paper intensive, complex to understand, difficult to manage and takes years to learn," Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability and Memorial Affairs Rep. John Hall (D-NY) said at a 29 JAN hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Training an employee to rate VBA claims can take two to three years and many leave within five years, Hall said. Experienced raters can adjudicate only about three claims a day, spending two to three hours on each claim. He said the VA should consider the use of artificial intelligence technologies, such as automated decision-support tools that can determine disability payments, which would speed up claims processing. "
Swell. Use AI to help deny claims. Eliminating backlog does not mean denying claims, even if that is the easiest route to take.
I don't have the solution. I'm sure AI ain't it. Getting vets more publicity, making it an issue might. Volunteering might help also. From the same bulletin:
"VA Voluntary Service (VAVS): VAVS was founded in 1946 to provide for our nation's veterans while they are cared for by VA health care facilities. It is a volunteer organization run by the VA which helps veterans in VA facilities throughout the country. Volunteers assist in routine administrative functions to help free VA employees to concentrate more on health care. There are also several VA cemeteries that have VAVS volunteers assisting in maintenance chores. It is one of the largest centralized volunteer programs in the Federal government. Over 350 organizations support it and. volunteers have provided over 676 million hours of service since its conception. As a community service volunteers assist veteran patients by augmenting staff with end of life care programs, foster care, community-based volunteer programs, hospital wards, nursing homes, and veteran outreach centers. The program receives annual contributions of over $50 million in gifts and donations. There are two convenient ways to sign up to be a VAVS volunteer:
1. Contact the Department of Veterans Affairs facility nearest you, ask for Voluntary Service, and tell their staff of your interest in becoming a VAVS Volunteer. The staff will take care of everything else including your interview, orientation, and assignment! To locate the VA facility is nearest you refer to http://www1.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp?isFlash=1 2. Volunteer now by filling out and submitting the form located at http://www1.va.gov/volunteer/volnowDB.cfmSomeone from your local VAVS office will contact you with additional information. [Source: NAUS Weekly Update 25 JAN 08 ++]"
Since I have been turned down for employment by the VA, am bored, and have a hobby horse to ride, volunteering seems to be the way to go. I'll let you know how it goes.
BRB is Write (and hates the system but not the players)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Right Way; The Wrong Way; The Army Way

I have here, before me, my discharge papers; my DD form 214. It has, among other things, my dates of service, MOS, training completed, and type of discharge or character of service as they like to call it: Honorable.

But in a section called "Transfer or Discharge Data" lies a ticking bomb. Line 11c sub-headed Reason and Authority references an army regulation and the obscure code SPN followed by a number. I never paid much attention to all the military jargon and codes on my DD214.

If you are a Vet and reading this dig out your DD214 and check your SPN. From the Veterans' Bulletin (Jan 15, 2008) I have linked on the right of this blog, read this:

"Spin Code Lawsuit: This case was originally filed in the US District Court, Northern District of New York, Syracuse and aspects of it are still being litigated. The lawsuit began in MAR 76 when Edwin Cosby with an Honorable Discharge discovered he had a bad "Spin Code" (i.e. Separation Program Number). Unknown to him and most other veterans beginning 11 JUN 56 under D.O.D. Instruction 1336.3 DOD ordered the military departments to begin putting a coded number on the main employment reference document of veterans. This document known as the DD-214 is often by employers of veterans seeking employment and benefits. DoD prepares eight or more copies of a veteran's DD-214 of which copy one goes to the veteran and others are eventually sent to State Adjutant General, VA Data Processing Center, Austin, TX. State Director Selective Service, and National Military Records Center, St. Louis MO. At a congressional hearing in 1974 DoD told Congress that only a couple hundred thousand documents had a code number and the "SPN" coding system would be stopped. However, in 1972, DoD started changing their "SPN" system to the "SPD" (separation program designator) and by 1977 nearly 20 million veterans with Honorable Discharges had a coded number. Congress subsequently attempted to pass a law regarding the use of the coded numbers; however, this failed to pass.

Numerous major corporations have admitted to having the codes and use them in their employment decisions regarding veterans. Banks, life insurance companies, State Government & Federal Government Agencies have them as well. Lists of the codes were sent to FAA, (federal aviation admin.), HUD, (housing & urban development), and Office Personnel Management. Even on an Honorable discharge, a "Spin Code" can hurt a veteran's chance of being hired by a prospective employer, obtaining a loan, and/or obtaining insurance. A few examples of spin codes and their meanings are:SPN 258 - Unfitness, multiple reasons SPN 263 - Bedwetter SPN 41A - Apathy, lack of interest SPN 41E - Obesity SPN 46C - Apathy / Obesity SPN 463 - Paranoid personality

A complete listing of spin codes can be found at http://www.landscaper.net/discharg.htm Veterans can request a new DD 214 with the spin codes removed. If you were in the US Army, written requests for having a SPN code removed from your DD 214 (Report of Separation from Active Duty) or earlier discharge papers, should be sent to: Commander, Reserve Components Personnel & Administrative Center, Box 12479, Ollivette Branch, St. Louis, MO 63132. Additional info on this subject is available at http://veterancourtcodes.com/ which contains a 90 minute video on the subject. [Source: Veteran's Forum 9 Jan 07 and Ed Crosby ecrosby1@rochester.rr.com ++] "

Use the links and find out what the Army really thought of your service. Think back to those jobs you lost out on and had included your DD214 as a reference.

My SPN code is 411: "Early separation of overseas returnee." It gives no reason for my early separation. The reason I had an early out was because, as a draftee, I had a two year active duty commitment, a two year active reserve commitment, and a two year inactive commitment. Well, in 1969, the Army Reserves were filled to capacity with the priviledged, well-connected, rich or just plain lucky draft-dodgers. (See Dan Quayle, e.g.) And in April, 1969 anyone returning from Viet-Nam with less than 150 days left in their active duty commitment were given a discharge and assigned as inactive to a reserve unit. Four years later I got a letter stating my commitment was ended.

None of this is on the DD-214. "Early separation of overseas returnee" could mean anything. I could have had VD and got discharged. No, there is a SPN code for that. I could have been homosexual; nope, there's a code for that. And your prospective employer had access to all those codes.

I am of the age that it really doesn't matter to me much now. However, I'm getting my "spin" code removed from my discharge. I urge you or any vets you know to do the same. We don't need the army putting any more labels on us.

At the time I was drafted students were protesting, politicians were taking stands against the war, soldiers were being vilified, and my life was being effing interrupted for a cause I didn't believe in. But I went. As I got older and somewhat wiser, I was reconciled to my service and even took pride in it. Just when I was using my DD-214 as a reference, the Army could have thrown a spanner in the works. Screwed again and gaining no pleasure from it.

BRB is Write (and will still prevail)