Posts Tagged ‘veterans’

I see your pirates and raise you

On the BAMF scale, the British Army Gurkhas rank pretty high. A delightful legacy of colonialism, these Nepalese volunteer soldiers have an elite record of fighting for the crown.

Historically, the Gurkhas suffered from their exceptional status within the British military: While veterans from other countries, including Ireland and South Africa, were entitled to live in Britain after four years of Army service, Gurkhas were not. No matter how many years or service or medals, they were forced to apply through regular channels requiring them to show “strong ties” to the country besides their military record. (Claimants could cite relatives already in Britain, or the need for urgent medical treatment.) Given Nepal’s colonial history, the distinguished record of the Gurkha units, and the fact that the four-year rule applied to all other veterans, it’s frankly hard to find a non-racist explanation for the policy. Many Gurkha veterans, including winners of all sorts of military honors, currently remain in poverty in Nepal.

Last year, a government review expanded the four-year rule to Gurkhas with a huge caveat: the policy would only apply to those discharged from the military after 1997. The government neglected the thousands of pre-1997 veterans on grounds that the regimental headquarters had been located in Hong Kong, not Britain, until that year.

Facing this, lawyers brought a test case on behalf of 5 veterans and 1 widow demanding inclusion of all Ghurkas under the standard four-year rule. The government expected that “Crown service as such [would] probably not be sufficient,” and even claimed that “Winning the Victoria Cross…[did not] necessarily constitute a strong tie.”

Today, the good guys won. The High Court of London, citing the “moral debt of honour” of the British people, ruled that the four-year standard be expanded to include Gurkhas discharged before 1997. Laywer Martin Howe called it “a victory that restores honour and dignity to deserving soldiers who faithfully served in Her Majesty’s armed forces,” as well as “a victory for common sense, fairness, and the British sense of what is right.” The ruling could affect up to 2,000 Gurkhas.

Good for the veterans, good for the lawyers, and good for the High Court of London.

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Support our troops:

FORT SILL, Okla. — An Army social services coordinator here who told USA TODAY about poor conditions at Fort Sill’s unit for wounded soldiers has been forced out of his job, the employee and base officials said Tuesday.

Support our troops:

Soldiers meeting with Army Secretary Pete Geren here on Tuesday said Chuck Roeder, 54, was a strong advocate for their problems and should not have been forced to leave.

Support our troops:

Roeder’s departure Friday, following his contact with USA TODAY, was purely coincidental, said Col. Sam White, an executive officer at Fort Sill. He said Roeder has a history of confrontations with base officials. “They can say whatever they want to say, but they’re not being truthful,” Roeder said. “I stand up for soldiers. I’m sure the word got out that I’d encouraged soldiers to speak.”

Support our troops:

“Chuck’s been there for us many times,” said Sgt. Willard Barnett, 51, and an Iraq war veteran. “I know for a fact that he saved a couple of soldiers’ lives. Chuck was there for them and helped them get through a rough time.”

(Full thing here.)

ps: if you need cheering up on a bad news day, I recommend some doughnut-shaped Jewish bread with a little somethin on it.   But please, no blood for poppy seeds.

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August 11 (Originally posted by Mischa)

This started a while ago, but didn’t get much press — the AP ran one paragraph on the Democratic response in July. So I’ve been staring at it for 20 minutes now and can’t for life of me come up with one legitimate defense of this:

“On May 5, the department [of Veteran’s Affairs] led by James B. Peake issued a directive that bans nonpartisan voter registration drives at federally financed nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and shelters for homeless veterans. As a result, too many of our most patriotic American citizens — our injured and ill military veterans — may not be able to vote this November.”

Seriously. They’re banning voter registration at VA hospitals. (The full Times opinion piece is here if you want it.)

The department offers two reasons for this: First, “voter registration drives are disruptive to the care of its patients;” and second, registering voters violates the Hatch Act.

First item: To be fair, the Bush administration VA is really doing a fantastic job with patient care. And it’s not like there’s any other distractions at the agency. So bully for them.

Second item: Hatch Act. Yes. Relevent sections in bold italics:

Permitted/Prohibited Activities for Employees Who May Participate in Partisan Political Activity

These federal and D.C. employees may-

* be candidates for public office in nonpartisan elections
* register and vote as they choose
* assist in voter registration drives
* express opinions about candidates and issues
* contribute money to political organizations
* attend political fundraising functions
* attend and be active at political rallies and meetings
* join and be an active member of a political party or club
* sign nominating petitions
* campaign for or against referendum questions, constitutional amendments, municipal ordinances
* campaign for or against candidates in partisan elections
* make campaign speeches for candidates in partisan elections
* distribute campaign literature in partisan elections
* hold office in political clubs or parties

These federal and D.C. employees may not-

* use official authority or influence to interfere with an election
* solicit or discourage political activity of anyone with business before their agency
* solicit or receive political contributions (may be done in certain limited situations by federal labor or other employee organizations)
* be candidates for public office in partisan elections
* engage in political activity while:
o on duty
o in a government office
o wearing an official uniform
o using a government vehicle
* wear partisan political buttons on duty

All of it is here, and worth noting that even the more restrictive Hatch group (FBI, Secret Service, NSA) is allowed to register voters.

This is a transparent effort to tamp down voter registration, brought to you by the same administration threatening to veto a veteran’s housing bill that passed with 400+ votes in the House. (Introduced by Senator Obama, it’s currently sitting in the Senate Banking Committee. It’s S-1084 if you feel like calling your upper-house Congresscracker.)

Thankfully, it’s OK if you’re a Republican. The Keyboard Kommandos would bleed from the ears if anyone three degrees left of Tojo tried to block veteran’s voting rights so shamelessly. So the offer stands: $1 to anyone who can provide a compelling argument for this policy.

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