Thursday, August 18, 2016

Instead of doing push-ups, supporters of veterans should organize against war or staff suicide prevention lines

By Marc Jampole

I first learned about the 22 push-up challenge on Facebook. Several of my 2,300+ Facebook friends are doing 22 push-ups a day for 22 days to commemorate the fact that 22 veterans commit suicide every day. The idea is to complete the 22 days and then challenge someone you know to do the same, all in memory of the 22 veterans added to our suicide rolls every day.

This morning I began seeing news stories on the 22 push-up challenge, about 127,000 in all in a Google News search, which is a relatively small number. The most prominent of the mostly minor media to cover the fad are Fox News and Inc. Most of the coverage focuses on the celebrities who have decided to drop and give 22.  They include Kevin Hart, Chris Pratt, Chris Evans, Kevin Bacon, Ludacris, John Krasinski and Dwayne Johnson. 

The 22 push-up challenge was devised by, which looks like it’s a for-profit group with the lofty goal of raising awareness about the high rate of suicide among veterans. The website mostly sells a variety of rings, clothing and headgear with branding. Unlike the typical awareness-raising event such as a walkathon or last summer’s ice bucket challenge, the people aren’t trying to use the challenge to raise money, although I’m fairly certain they would be delighted if the campaign led to an uptick in the purchase of their merchandise. does try to raise money on its website, which it says will be allocated to a wide range of nonprofit organizations helping veterans. Donate a minimum of $22 for four months and you get a free honor ring. Two questions remain unanswered: 1. How much of your donation does keep and how much gets funneled to the real nonprofits? 2. Why can’t you cut out the middle man and give directly to these other organizations?

While many things about sound fishy, I am not going to condemn or accuse the group, as I don’t know enough about it. Besides, whether or not the group is legitimate does not affect the viability and potential impact of the campaign, which I view as a complete waste of time.

Over the next few days and weeks it is possible that the 22 push-up challenge will blaze across the Internet and the mainstream media, much like the ice bucket challenge did last year and twerking did in 2013. But so what? How does that greater awareness help veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder?

Only two things will reduce the incidence of veteran suicides:
1.      Spending more money to provide services that help soldiers adjust to the aftermath of war.
2.      Not sending soldiers to war.

In that context, doing 22 push-ups a day for 22 days with no donation is pretty meaningless. At 10 minutes a day, the total time spent doing the push-ups works out to more than 3.5 hours. The same time could be spent staffing a suicide line or at a table outside Walmart soliciting contributions for one of the many organizations that help veterans in trouble. Perhaps the best use of the 3.5 hours would be to send letters to our elected officials exhorting them to spend more on veteran’s mental health and psychological counseling. The 3.5 hours could also be converted into a contribution:  For example one person I know who is doing the challenge makes in excess of a half million a year; instead of doing push-ups, this person could contribute $875, which represents 3.5 hours of a $500,000 salary for a 2,000-hour work year. 

While the 22 push-ups does nothing for veterans, it helps the participants in several ways. Obviously doing 22 push-ups a day improves the fitness of most healthy people. But doing the push-ups also makes the participants feel good inside in three ways: 1) They think they have helped an important cause; 2) They get to bond with other participants; 3) They enjoy the approval of the circle of their friends and associates who know about the challenge.

In short, doing something makes people feel good because they feel they are doing something. The premise is that people who participate in challenges, walkathons, marathons or dinners will give more money and be more committed to the cause than if they just wrote a check. People also like getting the various pins, water bottles, hats, tee shirt, mugs and other paraphernalia they typically receive when participating in nonprofit events. Many of my readers may not know that at the most expensive of these fundraising activities—formal dinners and cocktail parties for which the price of admission can be $150, $350 or even $1,000 a ticket—the gifts can be quite expensive and include vacation trips and spa memberships as door prizes. Like participants in the 22 push-ups campaign, those who walk, run or dance and those who sponsor them could give the money and donate their time directly to the nonprofit. But it wouldn’t feel as good.

In short, most fund-raising events and challenges appeal not just to our altruism, but to our inherent self-centeredness. In America, it can’t be good for someone else unless it’s also good for me.

Besides the typical self-centeredness I find in all of these challenges and events, I object to the 22 push-ups challenge for another reason. It does nothing to address the broader question of how we can help prevent veteran suicides. The answer, of course, is very simple: Don’t go to war.

War has always victimized a goodly number of soldiers. Anyone who has read any battlefield literature knows why: Seeing people wounded and die. Having to kill and wound others. Sleep deprivation. Living in ditches or other uncomfortable quarters. The regimentation of your life. The sound of bullets. The smell of blood and rotting corpses. The fear of bombs. Questions about the justness and fairness of the war. The guilt that you survived when comrades didn’t. The frustration of dealing with injuries. No wonder every war destabilizes the mental health of many soldiers.

At this point, we could broach a philosophical question: Is any war ever necessary or just? But in the United States, the issue of a just war has become moot. We have fought at least five wars in my lifetime that were absolutely unnecessary: Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq I and Iraq II; we could also make the case that our incursion into Afghanistan has also been a complete waste. From the standpoint of the home front, churning out PTSD-affected soldiers seems to be an American growth industry. (And let’s not forget the millions of people we killed or injured in the countries we invaded.)

Thus, the best way to reduce veteran suicides—which is the sole goal of the 22 push-ups campaign—is to not fight wars. Those who are doing push-ups would be better off working for and giving money to peace and disarmament organizations. And all of us should make sure that the next time a president or Congress wants to go to war and our territory has not suffered attack by an armed force that we send emails and letters against the war to elected officials and the news media and participate in anti-war demonstrations. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Shocking revelations in Clintons’ tax returns: Hillary is honest & believes in paying her fair share

By Marc Jampole

No wonder Republicans are so afraid of Hillary Clinton that they continue to hitch their wagon to the exploding death star known as Donald Trump.

The Clintons made $10 million last year, which definitely makes them one-percenters, just like all our presidents have been since Eisenhower, except her husband (who joined later) and Barack Obama (who is well on his way).

What makes Hillary Clinton so dangerous to the ultra-wealthy is her willingness to pay her fair share of taxes without engaging in the kind of complicated, if legal, tax avoidance schemes that we saw in Mitt Romney’s taxes and which past statements by Trump suggest are in his. The Clintons fulfilled their civic responsibility by paying their fair share of taxes, an idea that our plutocracy thinks is un-American and socialist.

The cynical will say that the Clintons avoided sophisticated tax avoidance schemes because they knew Hillary would be running for president and wanted to present clean books. But even if their tax strategies derived completely from political calculations, we must then contrast what Hillary thinks will fly with the American public with what Romney (and no doubt Trump) does. Romney was not afraid that taking legal deductions would make him look bad, even though it reduced his tax rate to 14%, lower than his secretary. In older tax returns from the 1970s, Trump paid no taxes because of the lush tax breaks afforded to real estate investment. By contrast, the “cynical” version of the Clintons decided that the American public really did want their leaders to pay their fair share—which in the case of the Clintons is almost 35% of their income.

Of course, perhaps the Clintons realized that they operate under two double standards—one for the Clintons and one for Hillary for being a woman—and understood that the mainstream news media and the GOP would hit them hard for standard tax shelters used by many one- and two-percenters.

The application of a double standard is implicated in virtually all of the complaints against Hillary Clinton. She, but no one else, remains unforgiven for her vote to support the potential invasion of Iraq, as if she were the only one who could see through the Bush-Cheney lies and deceptions and so is the only one blamed for falling victim to them. For some reason, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and everyone else who voted for the harsh and racially based prison terms in the 1990s get free passes, but Hillary who was not yet in the Senate, gets chided as the wife of the president who reluctantly signed these bad and now widely regretted pieces of legislation.

Why have there been no investigations of the other Secretaries of State like Condoleezza Rice who used private servers, except for the existence of a double standard?

Why has more money been spent on investigating the Benghazi tragedy than on investigating the Bush Administration for creating a worldwide torture gulag or instigating the Iraq War, except for the existence of a double standard?

The email scandal is perhaps the most egregious example of the double standard applied to Hillary Clinton. People who are making a big deal about possible conflicts of interest between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department when Hillary was running it have floated only one example of a potential conflict problem: a Clinton Foundation donor asked Foundation employees to hook him up with someone from the State Department. But as it turned out, the guy didn’t want any favors, business or special treatment. He wanted to give the State Department inside information he had about a crucial election in another country. He was not trying to use the Clinton connection for selfish ends, but to help the United States.

It’s interesting to note that just days after the Clintons released their latest tax returns, Maureen Dowd ran another screed in her decades-old campaign against the Clintons. Dowd spends an entire column trying to present Clinton as the perfect Republican candidate. She starts her latest flight of fancy by pointing out that the Clintons are one-percenters, ignoring that they have committed the cardinal sin for the ultra-wealthy, which is to leave money on the table for others. She creates Hillary the Republican from bits of facts and innuendos, starting with the wholly irrelevant fact that she supported Goldwater as a middle-schooler. Another double standard—others are allowed to change their views, but not Hillary. Not even the teenaged Hillary.

Most of the evidence that Hillary is really a Republican amounts to a whispering campaign. Dowd assumes that her “pals” John McCain and Lindsay Graham are rooting for her and that the endorsements from the Republican defense establishment has to do with her politics and not the fact that her opponent is an ignorant looney who lacks self-control. Dowd is also convinced that until recently, Hillary never stirred up any emotion among women and that the recent excitement about Hillary is limited to Republican women in the suburbs. (Dowd obviously has avoided Facebook and Twitter for the past two years, or else she would have seen the electrifyingly high level of excitement that Hillary has generated among women since she announced she was running for president.)

Nowhere does Dowd mention that Clinton explicitly states that she wants to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for massive investment in infrastructure and alternative energy technologies. Nowhere does Dowd mention that Hillary explicitly states that she wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 (although I suspect that if Dowd had brought up the minimum wage, she would have used it to call Hillary a flip-flopper, since before the primaries she wanted to start with $10.10 an hour). Nowhere do we read of Hillary’s many connections to labor unions and organizations working to improve the economic standing of minorities. Dowd also seems to forget that Clinton, unlike most Republicans, believes in a woman’s right to birth control and abortion and the right of all Americans to marry whomever they damn well please. Most Republicans want to build a wall along our border with Mexico. Most have a much more bellicose attitude about the Middle East than Hillary, despite what Dowd says. Most are against the Iran nuclear deal. Most want to lower taxes on the wealthy. So how is Hillary the ideal Republican candidate?

The Dowd column is a perfect hatchet job on Hillary’s liberal bona fides. Few facts, a lot of assumptions and a ridiculous conclusion.

The truth is quite the opposite from Dowd’s absurd assertion: Hillary Clinton stands in the great center-looking left tradition of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey. She is embracing what is perhaps the most left-wing platform for any political party in American history.  Her plans are detailed and realistic. To call her the ideal GOP nominee is a slander that would not be legal if Donald Trump had his way.