Many to Thank
July 8, 2022
On July 2, the Friends of the Montauk Library ran our annual book fair at the library, after a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic and delays in renovation of the building. Despite having much less time to prepare and many fewer donated books, we made almost $8,000.
We have many people to thank. We thank our many volunteers who did everything from baking before the book fair to cleaning up after. We thank the strong people whom we so badly need to move books and tables. Also the many businesses that donated supplies for us to use and sell, and items to be part of our popular bucket raffle.
We cannot fail to mention Denise DiPaolo and the staff of the Montauk Library, without whom none of this could happen.
I personally would like to thank the executive board of the Friends of the Montauk Library, who prepare for this all year.
Friends of the Montauk
August 8, 2022
To the Editor,
On Saturday, I attended the Hamptons Interactive Brunch benefit at Baron’s Cove in Sag Harbor to benefit the Children’s Museum of East End, hosted by Vanessa Gordon of East End Taste.
My daughters spent quality time and made many friends at CMEE when they were younger, participating in its many community outreach programs, which included ballet recitals put on by the Hamptons Ballet Theater School at the museum.
I am so very grateful to Vanessa Gordon for supporting the museum, as CMEE continues to bring fun, joy, creativity, and learning experiences to children and parents on the South Fork.
Jumped Into Action
August 1, 2022
To the Editor,
Thank you to our East Hampton first-responder heroes. This past Saturday, while wading in the ocean at Indian Wells Beach, my family and I heard a sharp whistle from the lifeguard stand at the Amagansett Bathing Association section of the beach. Not seeing anyone in the water in the area, we did not know why the whistle was blown, yet, all of a sudden, lifeguards from the other chairs all started running with equipment to the area of the A.B.A.
Within minutes, lifeguard cars, pickups, and emergency vehicles were on the scene. Then came the Marine Patrol emergency vehicles, along with police cars and, finally, an ambulance. All were there to assist someone who apparently was in dire need of emergency services.
After many minutes, the first responders were able to get the person to the ambulance, and apparently by the time they left the parking lot the victim had a pulse and was breathing again.
While it was a difficult situation to watch, it was comforting to see that East Hampton has dedicated first responders who jumped into action to assist someone in need of emergency services.
Congratulations to the East Hampton lifeguards, Marine Patrol, police, and ambulance crew for a job well done! Thank you for your efforts from the Reiter family!
JOSHUA J. REITER
August 7, 2022
Kristi Hood has operated the Springs General Store for two decades. She is a definite HOFer (Hall of Famer), that is, regarding her selfless contribution to the Springs community and her caring, kindness, and true goodness of heart.
She is also the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) when it comes to her culinary skills.
Plenty of history. Hugh King, the East Hampton Town crier, would teach local history at the Springs School. He asked where was the first post office.
My daughter, Hunter, said “my house,” the Springs General Store.
David Diamond Parsons, who was born over 200 years ago, opened the store in the mid-1840s. He resides just a few hundred yards south of the store. I am sure he is extremely proud of Kristi’s accomplishments and stewardship, and at the same time, he has a good bit of sadness. We don’t know what the new owners will bring, but there is a strong sense it will undoubtedly lose its flavor — no penny candy, no kiddie kayak rides. (As one of several self-appointed liaisons, we wonder if the new owners would like to share their plans in a move toward community acceptance.)
I went over to visit Mr. Parsons and I thought I heard him say (please consider I wear hearing aids), “If they genuinely maintain the flavor” (yes, he used the word flavor) of the 180 years of the Springs General Store, they have my blessing. For all I care, they can name it Parsons. Hell, why not? I’ve been dead 140 years.”
We were having a lively conversation (no pun intended) when I asked him how he would feel if on the cocktail menu they named a $22 David Diamond cosmopolitan after him? He didn’t answer.
With all my love for the Springs General Store and the Springs family.
Sense of Loss
August 8, 2022
To the Editor,
The Springs General Store is closing. According to The Star (June 29), the Springs General Store is the “unofficial center of the hamlet,” and the new owner of the store will be “a little bit more of a higher end purveyor,” and has applied for a liquor license.
Most mornings I click on my bike helmet and pedal a few miles to the store, a cup of steaming strong coffee and a cheery, “Good morning, Pete,” from Kristi Hood, the proprietor, convener, and host of the “porch crowd.”
We are Bonackers who can trace ancestry back to the Revolutionary War, retirees, artists, writers, weekenders, Covid refugees, volunteer firefighters, and tradesmen, we are politically blue and red and purple, we cheer and bemoan the success and failures of our favorite teams, complain about the summer hordes. The “car guys” convene on Sundays with magnificent vehicles. We are a microcosm of our nation.
The conversation swings from colonial American history, to the latest exhibition at Ashawagh Hall, to carpentry conundrums to the heroes of our youth.
The 19th-century building, once housing the local post office, does need renovation. We fear a “higher end purveyor” will have no room for the porch crowd habitues. My morning will no longer begin with “Good morning, Peter.” For all of us, a sense of impending loss.
Some of us remember the Edwardses, Bohacks, the Five and Dime, and East Hampton of long, long ago. The clock moves only in one direction, loss of a part of life. Perhaps, just perhaps, the new owners will join us as the conveners of the “porch crowd.”
Poor Phone Service
August 3, 2022
To the Editor,
At a recent, well-attended meeting of the Clearwater Beach Property Owners Association, board members heard once again angry, frustrated voices over poor phone service in Springs. Agreement, sympathy, and irresolution followed; board members as concerned as their neighbors in the audience, but not knowing what to do. One member, though, did cite Nimby: No tower or shadow thereof in my backyard. Especially for those who have already expressed themselves on this issue at Town Hall meetings and in writing to public officials, Nimby seems to rule, though it often comes couched in terms about safety, the environment, aesthetics, company competition. In any case, as a man sitting next to me at the meeting remarked with dead-on accuracy, and irony, “It’s small-town politics.”
Perhaps it’s time to look at a bigger picture. When we are friendly, if not friends, with nearby folks who would safeguard or enhance their residential investment by straining codes or sense of rights, we tend to go along. No one wants to quarrel with neighbors. In this case, no one wants a tower, though some design plans seem innocuous enough, if not imaginative. Cellphone access, however, is not a local or minor issue. Springs is hardly alone in having poor phone reception, while Suffolk County has been identified as having the largest growing senior population in the state. Carriers involved are big-time players.
In this upcoming off-year election, why don’t we nail down candidates for district or statewide office and ask them for an on-the-record commitment to introduce and fast-track legislation that would prioritize the installation or construction and maintenance of a cellphone tower in our area? We need no more anecdotes, real or hypothetical. We need action. Now. Nimby turns on whom some of us might know to forestall the connection all of us need.
August 8, 2022
Last week’s Star editorial “A Browner Lawn for the Greater Good” should open a seriously needed discussion about our lawns. America loves its lawns, but our lawns don’t love us.
A 2005 NASA satellite survey showed that we have 40 million acres of lawn in America; the National Turfgrass Research Initiative claims it’s up to 50 million today. That’s enough lawn to cover the State of Minnesota, half of Italy, 35,000 football fields, or twice the national parks in the lower 48 states. Maps representing turf coverage in the U.S. show Long Island as one of the densest turf zones in our turf nation.
The Environmental Protection Agency says landscape irrigation is responsible for about a third of residential water use. That’s over seven billion gallons a day, and a good deal of this is wasted through runoff and evaporation.
Around the world, it’s pretty clear that a significant portion of the globe has already entered a water emergency. Lakes, reservoirs, and rivers are drying up as prolonged periods of drought hammer the warming planet. As The Star has reported, the Suffolk County Water Authority has declared a Stage 1 Water Alert for the East End. Yet I look around and see the same wasteful water habits everywhere: irrigation systems overwatering immaculately green lawns as excess water runs down the road, carrying fertilizers and pesticides into our waterways.
We love our lawns, but we need some changes in this relationship.
We don’t need to do daily watering; once or twice a week of deep watering in hot weather is preferable. That promotes deep-rooted growth for healthy lawns. Overwatering does just the opposite, producing shallow-rooted turf that grows addicted to daily watering, fertilization, and costly lawn care.
Better yet, we could reduce our lawn size, replacing ecologically useless turf with suitable native plant gardens and meadows. Doug Tallamy, a noted ecologist, gets it right, I think: “Lawn doesn’t do any of the things that we need every landscape to do: Sequester carbon, manage the watershed, support a food web and support pollinators.” This doesn’t mean you have to dig up or get rid of your lawn. Lawns are great for some purposes, but in a time of climate emergency, we need to start reimagining our landscapes.
This is why the Peconic Estuary Partnership will pay you up to $500 to plant native gardens if you are within the Peconic Estuary watershed. “The PEP will provide financial rewards for homeowners who remove turf and pavement, and add green alternatives to their properties that benefit the environment.” PEP is just one in a long list of environmental organizations offering the same advice. Use native plants adapted to the soil and climate conditions of your area. Once established, they are attractive, low-maintenance alternatives to energy and water intensive turf monocultures.
Before Europeans arrived, Long Island’s glacial outwash plains were covered with pine barrens and native grassland suited for our poor, well-drained sandy soils, grasslands interspersed with colorful drifts of asters, goldenrods, and other native wildflowers. Imagine if we could restore just a portion of that habitat. Remember, this is what our yards have replaced. Maybe we should consider restoring some of that ecologically sound native beauty. The place to start is our yards.
Old Northwest and Cedar
August 1, 2022
I’ve been a resident in Northwest Woods for many years, and I have traveled from Old Northwest toward Cedar Street multiple times a day for many years.
It seems that drivers heading in a northern direction on Stephen Hand’s Path crossing over Cedar Street get confused navigating through that intersection. There’ve been a number of accidents there over the years. It is, and has been, a dangerous intersection for many years. The way I go through it is I slow down to 15 miles an hour with my hand hovering over the horn.
Over the past two years it’s gotten even worse! Several years back there was talk about putting a light at that intersection. I know the neighbors in the area voiced their opinions and were against the idea, and that was the end of it.
The town just completed roadwork in the vicinity around the corner where Old Northwest Road meets Stephen Hand’s Path — not sure if that will help, because the traffic flow headed northwest on Cedar Street is now going through that intersection making a left turn a little ways up at the stop-sign junction of Old Northwest Road. This is causing more confusion at the Cedar Street-Stephen Hand’s Path intersection. There is a large amount of traffic conversion in and around that intersection, especially during rush hour, but most of the time it’s very busy there.
I do have an idea that I’ll try to express: Nobody wants a traffic light there, which I can understand with the volume of traffic that’s going through there. I’m talking about Stephen Hand’s Path, Cedar Street, and Old Northwest Road, where they all converge. With an intersection, a yield/merge, and a couple of stop signs, it’s like a triangle. It could be a large loop or rotary. It’s already two lanes. Once you were in, it’s one way, moving in a counterclockwise direction, working like a regular rotary.
I know that there would be some roadwork involved. It might be something the town could consider and research. If there is any support for this idea, I’d be happy to submit an existing drawing of what it is and a basic drawing of what it could be.
I do know that the triangular piece in my previous reference is a reserve, and understand that there are certain restrictions just on that. I’m sure there are also other concerns that would have to be checked into to see if this idea is feasible.
By His Actions
August 6, 2022
To the Editor,
Why was Daniel Campbell, a killer driver, only charged with a “single felony count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death,” but not reckless driving (hitting a pedestrian walking on the road in front of your car), and why was he not charged with his failure to immediately call 911 for possibly lifesaving medical help for the victim?
Didn’t Justice Richard Armbro read the Aug. 19, 2021, arraignment statement about “gross negligence, reckless disregard for life, and willful evasion of the state’s lawful prosecution” made by East Hampton Town Justice Steven Tekulsky?
The Star’s own account states, “The defendant fled the scene, drove to a friend’s house, did not call 911, and was also alleged to have used his cellphone to have explored ways of fleeing New York State.”
This plea bargain is neither justice, nor any deterrent to other reckless and/or hit-and-run drivers (of which there are already too many)!
Daniel Campbell’s lawyer, Edward Burke Jr., says that at the Sept. 22 sentencing, Daniel Campbell will “show the [dead victim, Devesh Samtani’s] family the type of person he is.” I say that Campbell already showed that by his actions (and 911 inaction) on the day of the accident.
Bridge to Nowhere
August 8, 2022
Cautious optimism: two words which best describe my feelings about the recently adopted East Hampton Town Coastal Assessment and Resiliency Plan, or CARP.
In general, the product earns a thumbs-up, as a well-devised planning tool, which serves as the framework for next-step action items. A coastal management manifesto, if implemented with real purpose and political courage, will help ensure the sustainability of irreplaceable coastal resources — our recreational beaches.
The technical information contained in CARP is thorough and applicable. The mapping illuminates East Hampton’s vulnerabilities to sea level rise and storm surge and is essential information with crafting coastal policy.
Addressing policy considerations, CARP correctly identifies the relevant issues: floodwater mitigation, improving wastewater infrastructure, instituting more adaptive zoning measures, and sand (inlet) management at Lake Montauk. Most important, CARP acknowledges the need for coastal retreat. And as a precursor, the transfer of development rights to help facilitate relocation of vulnerable establishments will be explored.
But all is not all rosy. The apparent willingness by the town board to pursue beach nourishment as the preferred coastal management strategy in the face of rapidly rising waters is reason for pause.
The so-called “bridge strategy,” sand replenishment at the downtown Montauk beach and Ditch Plain will prove to be a bridge to nowhere — a perpetual expense to East Hampton taxpayers, a logistical nightmare with a host of environmental impacts being swept under the carpet by proponents of engineered beaches, not to mention the all but certain changes to a world-class surf break artificial beach fill would bring. The greatest consequence of all: providing disincentive to front-line property owners to move back when sand replenishment is all but guaranteed into the foreseeable future and paid for with public dollars.
While voluntary buyout is the preferred approach, safeguarding the public’s coastal resources will require courageous actions by the town board — ready and willing to wield their authority with property condemnation. In the end, it’s probably the one thing that will make moving out of harm’s way happen.
The best-laid plans. . . . All in, town board, or just kicking the can?
Threat From Below
August 8, 2022
After years of hard work by many, the East Hampton Town Board held a public hearing last Thursday regarding adoption of the important Coastal Assessment and Resiliency Plan, otherwise known as CARP.
Adoption is an important milestone, but much work lies ahead on the road to the 15-to-30-year implementation: Refine the details, and figure out how to turn 70 pages of information, strategy, and goals into tactical, realizable action steps. Much of it will likely be a rather heavy lift, extraordinarily expensive, and require no small number of wrenchingly hard choices. Town boards of today and the future will need to ask citizens to approve and do difficult things.
I’ve read the draft several times since its May release. As detailed as is this document, to my eye, three issues requiring close attention appear to be underrepresented in CARP: rising groundwater levels, the flood absorption capacity of our land, and the many ways town land use and the zoning code need to be amended with immediacy to become consistent with the articulated challenges and goals.
Nearly every time I hear Jeremy Samuelson, the town planning director, speak, he reminds us with urgency that there is a one-to-one ratio between sea level rise and groundwater rise. Yet currently, CARP makes scarcely a mention of rising groundwater, its risks, and how we deal with it.
This limited discussion about groundwater as a critical factor is not necessarily surprising: Though scholarly publications address it in depth, it remains mostly absent in mainstream conversation and documentation. While the threats from above — dangers of inundation from rising seas and more frequent and intense storms — seem obvious, the threat from below of groundwater rise is mostly invisible and its effects more pernicious.
I’m just in the process of learning more, but as I understand so far, groundwater rise can potentially devastate coastal communities. And though our CARP plan focuses mostly on shoreline and shoreline-adjacent areas, rising groundwater can become a real problem miles inland.
Higher seas push the water table up, and that creates flooding from below, which can become a regular event during high tides and regular rainfall. It can become a direct and widespread threat to our municipal and private infrastructure. For example, rising groundwater and salt water intrusion can erode roadways from below, can cause foundations to crack or become unstable, can stop on-site septic systems from draining properly, can cause sewers to backflow, can corrode gas lines, and can potentially resurface toxic substances that have been sequestered for years underground, and it can contaminate wells and the aquifer.
Second, CARP doesn’t really address a core element of resilience: the capacity of our land to absorb increased floodwaters.
Stating the obvious here, the reason places flood isn’t just because water comes in from rising water bodies or more frequent storms of greater intensity, but it’s also about how the ground is able to take in and hold that incoming water. Not only does rising groundwater constrain absorption, but displacing of and covering up the ground with impervious and semi-permeable surfaces impede how efficiently land can soak up water.
These first two issues lead me to a third gap: The plan must address necessary changes to our zoning code and approval procedures. Thus far, CARP offers a few gentle references to “regulatory changes.” One table indicates “setbacks” and “building regulation” as “accommodation” steps to be taken over the next five years. One of the only specific changes it calls for is to loosen residential height restrictions to accommodate raising houses above defined flood elevations.
But that seems far too vague, as it does not bring home the point that it’s not just when and where we retreat from eroding shorelines later, but it is about our scope and scale of building and redeveloping right now.
It is impossible to see what is currently allowable under Chapter 255 as compatible with either the town’s declared “state of climate emergency” or a true coastal resiliency priority. If the only answer is to jack 5,000-plus-square-foot houses 15 feet up into the air on stilts, that will create other kinds of problems.
Our groundwater is displaced, and our absorption potential and flood resilience are undermined unnecessarily every day in East Hampton by the voracious, greedy obsession of speculative developers and real estate brokerages to max out construction based on the over-generous coverage allowances currently within town and village zoning codes.
Excessively large house footprints, much bigger and way deeper below-ground living space, oversize in-ground pools, and lot-filling “hardscape” are a problem. Moreover, expansive and constant clearing, grading, filling and sodding, the removal of natural features like woodlands, dune lands and incursion into wetland buffers, and the endless ripping out of natural, native vegetation — all of which are known to be among the most important elements of flood mitigation — plus insane amounts of irrigation to support water-hogging lawns and ornamental plantings, some that extend right to the borders of water bodies, are unsustainable.
The very first and last pages of the CARP document call for “Communications and Consensus-building,” including marketing and education campaigns. In other words, it makes clear the need for winning over hearts and minds for creating the right mind-set among East Hampton residents.
But when it comes to mind-set, marketing is not enough. It is about everything we do now. What we build, where we build, how big, how high, and how deep we build today and every day forward is what signals to people what the town really believes and symbolizes our priorities.
Realistically, can we expect people to embrace the major changes this CARP plan will ask of us, like picking up and moving houses or shifting an entire business district, when every day, every one of us sees the town, seemingly business as usual, approve and issue permits for building bigger and bigger near our shorelines?
For example, can we expect anyone today to stand in that Ditch Plain parking lot in the shadow of the current construction of a massive soul-crushing house looming over one of our most iconic, most vulnerable spots on the entire CARP map — and also know that there are three more of these monsters in the pipeline, and dozens more of those germinating all over town — and then turn around and embody the priorities of this plan?
Among other strategies CARP calls for is “managed retreat” — a category that includes moving or requiring abandoning, demolishing, and redeveloping assets to sites less vulnerable to the twin risks of erosion and inundation.
I prefer the concept of “managed alignment” instead, as it includes two components: Where necessary, remove or relocate existing development out of and not rebuild storm and flood-impaired structures within true hazard areas, and limit the construction of new development in known hazard, vulnerable, and buffer areas.
The first of these two strategies, “remove or relocate,” can be, to some, contentious, emotional, and shocking and will engender resistance. It’s more likely to happen further into the future, or reactively after a catastrophic weather event. And it’s incredibly expensive and disruptive. However, the second strategy limiting development in key areas is something that has virtually no up-front cost to the town and taxpayers and doesn’t disrupt or take anything away that is already existing. And it can begin to happen immediately. When we talk about limiting new construction, core to that is adding rational, necessary restraint to the scope, scale, density, and intensity of what is built.
Though it is structured as a long-range, multi-decade plan, CARP is as much about today as it is about all the tomorrows.
East Hampton Village
August 1, 2022
I find it sad watching Jerry Larsen lead a village board meeting. Sorry for everyone around the table who owes their livelihood to Jerry. Whether it’s Chief Tracey negotiating his retirement package, or Drew Smith, beach manager extraordinaire, leading the Pledge of Allegiance, they all have to walk on eggshells around him. After one misstep, his Napoleonic Putinesque demeanor (redundant?) kicks into high gear. While he may have an opinion, it’s never based on empirical evidence. And when he leans back in his chair, a.k.a. throne and grunts, someone will pay — watch out.
Sorry, I have no empathy for his minions. They made their bed. Unfortunately, East Hampton Village residents suffer most from his inadequacies.
I was flattered that Jerry personally attacked me at last Friday’s board of trustees meeting. He publicly berated me for inquiring when the board packet would be available. After all, it was less than two hours before the board meeting. I wanted to remind him of his transparency pledge. I sent an email at 9:13 a.m. The packet finally appeared on the website one hour later, leaving only 27 minutes to review the board packet.
But that didn’t stop Jerry’s verbal attack. He insisted the packet was already on the site and questioned my integrity and computer skills. I’ve attached my email sent at 9:13 a.m. and the packet posting at 10:33 a.m. Even when Marcos attempted to correct him, he refused to acknowledge his error.
Jerry, you may want to check with Vinnie, but I believe your comments are libelous.
I anxiously await your apology for the public record.
Most Extreme Attack
August 8, 2022
For decades, Republicans have fought to outlaw abortions. And for those many years, that fight has been fought against the wishes of most Americans.
Well, now the dog has caught the car. After the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a panoply of Republican-controlled states have raced to see which could enact the most extreme attack on women’s rights. All this in the face of overwhelming Americans’ opposition to such restrictions.
All this anti-women furor recently came to a grinding halt in deep-red Kansas. Voters were asked “Do you favor removing state constitutional protections for abortion access?” The answer was a resounding no — in deep-red Kansas! A woman’s right to her personal freedom won by more than 20 points. This political backlash to the Republican war on women’s rights was unexpected and has sent G.O.P. candidates scurrying for cover.
Lee Zeldin, our lame-duck congressman and G.O.P. candidate for governor, is a perfect example of a G.O.P. candidate who now would like voters to think he is now not opposed to abortion access or other women’s rights. In trying to downplay the issue, Mr. Zeldin campaigns on the notion that New York’s right to abortion would go unchanged if he were elected governor, leading one to believe that he would do nothing to change the current situation.
On this issue, Mr. Zeldin’s campaign is one of utter deception. Mr. Zeldin has backed a bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks. He has repeatedly voted to defund Planned Parenthood. He joined the House Republicans’ amicus brief to the Supreme Court arguing Roe v. Wade be overturned. As candidate for governor, Mr. Zeldin promised to make New York a more pro-life state, promising to appoint a pro-life health commissioner and promised that anti-abortion activists would have “open door” access to his administration.
In short, if elected governor, Mr. Zeldin would bring the G.O.P.’s war on women’s rights to Albany where he would fight to roll back those rights just as he has done while playing congressman. We cannot let that happen. Kathy Hochul deserves your vote if New York is to preserve, and even expand women’s rights.
August 5, 2022
Ms. Goodman: So sorry you assumed my letter had something to do with blaming President Biden for full-term abortion. Had you read the letter carefully — I asked a question then proceeded to ask about the pain the abortion causes the infant — this was general information concerning an actual abortion. The blame I put on the devout Catholic Biden is signing an executive order to remove the Supreme Court sign-off on Roe v. Wade. It also seems like the country doesn’t understand the justices’ ruling. They did not overturn the law, they simply gave it to the states to decide, simply removed it from federal law.
Second was also general concerning demonstrations, keep in mind while cities were not burning, government chose to stand by and do nothing.
Merrick Garland did nothing to protect the Supreme Court justices from protesters in front of their homes. That’s the law. However Merrick did sick the F.B.I. on citizens who went to school board meetings to protest certain things being taught to their children, wearing masks, among other items the rape of a student in a bathroom: What did he do? Called these parents domestic terrorists.
Yes, I dislike Joe Biden immensely because I’ve seen his act for 40 years. I never mentioned the election. I’ve watched this man who was accused of a sexual attack (but that was thrown far away). I’ve watched this man on television hug little girls unnecessarily, smell their and adult women’s hair.
Besides watching Fox News, I watched Gail King beg Hillary Clinton to run for the Democratic nomination for the 2024 presidency. I have never turned on Newsmax. I fact-check carefully but you interpret how you feel.
I have not watched the Jan. 6 hearings as it is one-sided with the crew in charge admitting they just want to destroy Trump.
By ending, I have one question. It took two years for the media that Hunter Biden’s laptop is real and illegal happenings are truly in print. Where’s the investigation from Merrick Garland? Joe Biden has topped Jimmy Carter as the worst president ever.
In God and country,
Screw Our Soldiers
August 6, 2022
In 2002, Tamar Rogoff, the dance choreographer, did a piece called “Daughter of a Pacifist Soldier.” The piece was the story of her father, a doctor, in World War II. It was, however, relevant to the moment because she was working with groups of Vietnam vets who had an important story to tell.
The aftereffects of the Vietnam War included a high level of suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder as a normal consequence of war, and mental and physical damage from exposure to chemical weapons like Agent Orange. The vets’ story was that the government refused to provide medical and psychological treatment for exposure to chemical weapons if the vets wouldn’t sign a hold-harmless agreement for the companies who created the weapons: Dow, Monsanto, etc. The message to the vets was clear and straightforward: They were fodder for the war effort, so get lost.
The shock to the Vietnam vets was not irrational. They had served their country in an absurdly illogical war and now they were being discarded. They were a burden to the government, which had little interest in assuming responsibility for its actions and for the vets. The government disgraced itself and eventually switched to a volunteer military where pushback against abusive treatment would be limited.
Skip to the present, last month, Senate Republicans had a moment of temporary insanity (coup de folie in French). They joined Democrats in approving a bill to provide funding for soldiers who suffered from the effects of burn-pit exposure in Iraq and Afghanistan. The PACT Act, 10 years too late, was a statement of how the United States government took care of its military. A few months later, when the bill came back to the Senate for final passage, 25 Republican senators changed their vote and voted against the bill.
Phew, they almost blew it. Given some time to think and get their heads on straight, Republicans got back on track. They have always screwed our soldiers, along with everyone else who might need some kind of government support. The message, “screw you” was loud and clear.
That families expected this bill to pass made no sense. Look at how our pharmaceutical companies were protected when they provided Oxycontin and other opiates to returning vets and put them over the edge. Look at how they threw vets and active soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan under the bus.
Something is obviously wrong in Republican Land. There is a distorted belief that the 41 senators who voted against the bill are not subhuman. But they are.
No, in truth they are scum. A simple case. The excuse 25 senators made for not supporting the bill was a financing mechanism, not the intent of the bill. But, according to the Congressional Budget Office, which reviewed the original bill that they voted for, the financing mechanism was already in the bill, ergo, lying scum.
But it gets worse, way worse. The financing issue was between discretionary and mandatory spending. Republicans wanted discretionary spending so that they could stop the payments once they took over Congress.
Also, during the Trump administration there were substantial talks to get rid of the Veterans Administration. The volunteer army had become so expensive, with long-term care and recruitment bonuses, that a plan was being developed to find a way out of these obligations and screw our military. The PACT Act was an impediment to that process?
So, except for the G.I. Bill, there has never been a time in our history that we treated our soldiers as anything but cannon fodder. Heroism, patriotism, medals galore — all a bag of inexpensive crap used to placate, pacify, and eventually screw our soldiers.
Thanks for your service. We are beyond shame.