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Forum, Aug. 3: Origins of the Mammoth Tooth, the VA and the Free Market

Origins of the Mammoth Tooth

To the Editor:

As a lifelong fossil collector, I found the front page story of the discovery of a mammoth tooth fossil in New Hampshire interesting (“Plymouth State Professor Makes Mammoth Fossil Discovery,” July 31). However, it seems to me that finding one isolated fossil piece in a gravel pit and concluding that the animal lived in that geographic vicinity is not very convincing. It is well known that during the ice ages glaciers moved gravel bits long distances from their places of origin. Thus it seems very possible, if not likely, for the fossil in question to have originated in Canada.

Abner J. Schlabach

East Barnard

Congress Sets the VA Budget

To the Editor:

Alan Wylie (“Beware Single-Payer Care,” July 30) can check for himself the efficacy of the “free-market system” of health care by calling for an appointment with a specialist for a problem of his choosing — say, an onset of sciatica which leaves him screaming in pain for an hour every morning. He can then compare it with the service he gets from the VA. Nationally, average waits are from 21 to 45 days.

Former Senator Jim Webb’s observation is an apples-and-oranges comparison. In 1980, the VA (with Webb’s reported peak patient caseload) was so scandalously underfunded, according to a 2010 report by Ronda Tewes of the League of Women Voters, that a massive infusion of money was needed (which Webb overlooked) simply to provide proper care for all. Even now, with a 141 percent increase in patients and only a 3 percent increase in staff, we cannot expect the VA to remain (as it is acknowledged) the best health care system in the country without proper funding.

Wylie’s characterization of “bureaucrats” setting budgets and determining policies is simplistic. The people who do that work happen to be hired for their expertise in their field, and they are for the most part intimately acquainted with the needs of patients and staff. They request what they know will meet their patients’ needs; it is Congress, which for at least the last decade has been beholden to Wall Street’s self-interest, that determines whether the budget requests will be honored. As Wall Street profits hugely from privatization and not at all from single-payer systems like the VA, we can expect to see its continued attack on funding both the VA and Vermont’s intended single-payer health care for all. An informed citizenry, not abandonment to the predations of the “free market,” is needed to protect Mr. Wylie’s VA care.

Chuck Gregory

Springfield, Vt.

The Cheney/McCain Illusion

To the Editor:

By now we’ve all seen Dick Cheney and John McCain on TV asserting that if President Obama had a more active foreign policy that we wouldn’t be seeing all these troubles in the Middle East. These claims are a mixture of foolishness and fake common sense.

Foolishness first. There is very little we can do in the Middle East. We have demonstrated this in Iraq and Afghanistan. We go in with the best intentions in the world, thinking that we can first calm the countries down and then, having put a democracy in place, leave behind a haven of peace and prosperity. But the ancient divisions that have caused the instability in the first place overwhelm us. We end up by being a target of everyone who opposes the regime we have established. The original problem was that the country was badly divided, and we didn’t and don’t know how to cure that.

The fake common sense is derived from two beliefs about ourselves that many Americans share. The first is that we are a model to the world. The second is that our military can solve the problems of other countries. They add up to a belief that we can fix things. Except for our allies in Europe and Asia, what most foreigners admire about the U.S. is our money. In the Middle East, people despise our decadence and our sex-obsessed entertainment industry. If you want to see how military interventions solve problems, just look at Israel in Gaza. The Israeli army is successfully killing people and destroying infrastructure, but its lasting effect is to make the Palestinians hate Israel even more.

What Cheney and McCain are trying to do when they advocate their interventionist policy is to discredit President Obama, who has kept us out of wars in Libya and Syria and saved thousands of American lives and billions of our tax dollars.

But if you liked Iraq and Afghanistan, the lives lost and the money thrown away, the countries destabilized, the squalid refugee camps, and the boiling hatred of the Muslim world, vote for the people that Cheney and McCain represent.

Steve Rounds