Never Forget the Heroes: The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Act (S. 3591 / H.R. 7062)

FORGOTTEN – The lost Heroes & Widows of September 11th

This is a post I never thought I would have to write (again), but I should have known better.

You see, I spent twenty years as a cop in New York City. I learned early on that when the camera lights dim and the T.V. satellite trucks leave, the tragedy of the crime scene is quickly forgotten. In the days and weeks following the September 11th terrorist attacks we were told by the leaders of this great nation, who obligingly wrapped themselves in the flag for the photo-ops, that America would simply #NeverForget the heroes, yet 17 years later I can confirm to you that we have indeed been forgotten.

The reality is that the September 11th attack is not a distant memory. We are quickly approaching the time where we will have lost just as many to 9/11 attributed illnesses as we did on the day of the attack. The aftermath of the attack has never ended.

Those of us who responded that fateful day were aware of the dangers we faced, even after being lied to by the ‘Honorable’ Christine Todd Whitman, who was then head of the EPA, that the air was safe. Ms. Whitman now regrets her role in perpetuating the lie. Gee thanks for nothing, Chrissy. Anyone who was there can tell you that there was nothing even remotely safe, including the air, but they did their jobs without consideration of the risks. Unfortunately, as soon as the sicknesses began to set in, the politicians, like those T.V. crews, packed up and moved on.

“Heroes, what heroes?”

It took nearly a decade to get the James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act passed.

As a Republican, I am profoundly ashamed to say that it was my party that stood in the way. What should have been a bill that both sides could have rallied around became a political football, with Republicans threatening to filibuster the bill unless they got tax-cut concessions. Apparently #NeverForget the Heroes is politician-speak for: “What can I get out of this?”

In 2015, politicians were once again shamed into backing an extension of the bill and once again it was the Republicans who dragged their heels. Amazingly, when it comes to their pet projects they are all about funding, but when it comes to helping out people who have truly earned it, they all become die-hard fiscal conservatives.

Now here we are, in 2018, and funding is again running out. And just like in the past, these same politicians need to be shamed into acting.

In 2015, my congressional representative, Rodney Davis, was on record saying the following:  “We will never forget. I remember we were on vacation and I was getting Toryn ready to go to the beach when a plane hit the second tower 14 years ago. Where were you?”

Well Rodney, I can tell you I wasn’t at no friggin’ beach like you were! But you already knew that (hint: Rodney and I used to be on a first name basis a few years ago, but then he got elected to congress and forgot about the people who supported him.)

Sadly, I had to shame Mr. Davis (How “Never Forget the Heroes of 9/11” turned into “Who?”) before he finally signed on as a co-sponsor for the 2015 extension

Back then I got a form letter e-mail response from him, something to the effect that he would be ‘looking into it.’ This time I didn’t even get so much as an e-mail acknowledgment (Perhaps it is lost in the internet). So, it looks like I am going to have to do it all over again. Who knows, perhaps he might even find himself in a contested election, the next time around…… You know, by an actual hero who won’t forget.

The sad reality is that the men and women who rushed in to help on September 11th, 2001, are sick and DYING and a lot of politicians would just be happy to see them go quietly into the grave. They are losing their homes because they are having to choose between receiving medical treatments or keeping a roof over their families head. Widows are being nickel and dimed to death through award ‘deductions’ in what the system cheerfully calls “collateral assets”…….. Funny how the Victim’s Compensation Fund is making victims out of us a 2nd time around.

I know we all have our problems, our own issues, but I am begging each and every one of you to stop for just a moment and please contact your elected representative and urge them to sponsor this bill. If they are a member of the Senate it is S. 3591 and if they are a member of the House it is H.R. 7062. Of all the things they can slash, it shouldn’t be the health benefits of those who gave every last measure that tragic day.

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These are the facts today:

  • The more than 42,000 people who are in the World Trade Center Health Program are suffering from at least one certified 9/11 condition caused by toxins at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and the Shanksville crash site, while a large percentage have multiple conditions.

  • Chronic diseases like asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and cancer continue to plague those who were exposed to the many toxins and carcinogens on 9/11 and in the weeks and months thereafter.

  • Over 9,300 of those enrolled in the Health Program have been certified with a 9/11 related cancer, with more being diagnosed every day. Thousands more who have been diagnosed with cancer are only now joining the health program, so these numbers will increase dramatically.

  • 9/11 responders and survivors in the Health Program reside in all 50 states and in 434 out of 435 Congressional districts.



Stop Blaming the Cops !

As a writer, I spend a lot of time on social media, engaging with my fans, a number of whom are in law enforcement. Over the past week or so I have seen several videos, involving police officers, which have sent a cold chill through me.

For those of you who don’t know me, I spent over two decades in law enforcement; including twenty years with the NYPD. While I have a deep appreciation for the often thankless work that our law enforcement officers perform on a daily basis, that does not mean I am a biased cheerleader. I believe that we should always examine every issue through a clear lens.

Are there bad cops? Absolutely.

Should law enforcement be held to a higher standard? Absolutely.

But make no mistake about it, we don’t recruit officers from some mythical alien planet, where everyone is virtuous and never makes a mistake. We recruit from local communities, from among us, and if we are flawed as human beings this means those who we ask to protect and defend us are equally flawed. Theoretically, the background check is designed to weed out any problems, but too often we see that these checks become lax when politics enters the mix.

The authority entrusted to officers is immense. They have the power to take away your freedom and that is something that should not be treated lightly, but I’m often dismayed at how this is treated as a one-way street. Often the biggest critics of police officers are the ones who aggressively abuse their freedoms and push for confrontations.

Case in point: Charlottesville.

Regardless of what side of the fence you are on this issue, we have to agree that American’s have a First Amendment right to free speech. You may not agree with it, but you have to respect it. The reason is pretty clear: today you might not agree with their speech, but tomorrow they might not agree with yours. But disagreement was not on the hearts and minds of some in Charlottesville. By all accounts the ‘white supremacist’ contingent failed to materialize, but that wasn’t a problem for the Antifa folks. No they showed up ready for a fight and when they couldn’t find any ‘fascists’ to bash, they turned their anger toward the cops and journalists.  They were a riot looking for a reason.

This is part of a growing trend in America where people are being emboldened to act in any way they want without fear of any consequences.

Recently in New York City, the police were called to a location in the Bronx. As the officers were leaving the location, several males confronted them, cell phone cameras in hand, and began a profanity laced tirade against them. Even though they were committing a clear case of disorderly conduct, no action was taken by the officers.

Why?

Because police officers now work in an exaggerated environment of: damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Frankly, I have never seen it this bad before.

Politicians and pundits are actively supporting groups who call for the death of police officers. They even make excuses, citing the current president as being the source of all these issues. Apparently, for as enlightened as these folks claim to be, they are unaware that these groups and events predate the last election.

The reality is that they have been running roughshod over facts for a very long time.  Why you ask? Ratings and votes. I wish I could say it was something more profound, more enlightening, but it’s not. If you are interested, I wrote about this previously (Violence Based on a Lie) and I am sad to say nothing has changed.

The fact is that law enforcement in America is an illusion. The population of America is 320 million and there are less than a million law enforcement officers. You do the math.

The origins of policing in America are founded on the British model which contends that the powers to police are with the implicit consent of the public. That means we want to be safe and we want the police to perform this job. It’s the principal of community policing, but what happens when it is undermined?

That is what is happening today in America when politicians and journalists spread misinformation or just outright lies. Sadly, this mindset is also taking hold among police administrators, who fear a career ending political backlash if they don’t toe-the-line.

Imagine the message that is sent to the front-line officers when they perform their job exactly as they were trained, in accordance with the manual they were given, and yet when the public protests, they are made a scapegoat. Is it any wonder why more and more officers are taking a hands-off approach?  It’s a tough enough job to do when you know the agency has your back, but entirely different when you know that your bosses will sacrifice you to protect their careers. 

When we demonize and dehumanize law enforcement, we make it acceptable to do anything we want to them. They become the nameless, faceless representatives of evil repression. We don’t have to look any further than the assassination of NYPD police officers Ramos and Liu in 2014 to see what that looks like.

But when the cops are gone, who will protect us? And that question should send a cold chill through YOU.

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The Derailment of the Trump Train?!?!

The immediate aftermath of President Donald Trump signing the now infamous Omnibus Spending Bill seemed to be a visceral one. In fact, there were widespread reports of weeping and gnashing of teeth among some of the more hardcore followers.  To be fair, at face value, the bill does seem to be a direct affront to many of the things that the President campaigned on, but does it herald the coming of Armageddon?  The answer is a resounding: No.

I’m really not sure why people seem to be losing their minds over this, but they need to pause and take a deep breath. The reality is that you’d have to have just awoken from a coma to be shocked by any of this. Perhaps it has been the continuous chanting of drain the swamp, which led many folks to view things with rose-colored glasses, but the reality is draining a swamp as big as Washington D.C. is not going to happen for a LONG time.

To put it in terms everyone can understand, it is like adding 30lbs over the winter and then thinking you can lose it all in a few days before the start of the Memorial Day weekend. It just ain’t happening, sport.

It’s also not Trump’s job to drain it, but we the voters. We elected them, now we have to eject them!

Actually, if you take a moment to really read and digest the bill, something which 99% of lawmakers didn’t do before they voted on it, you’d get an interesting look into how your representatives view you.

The Omnibus Bill isn’t a budget, but a well contrived spending spree that was most likely drafted and voted on quickly to prove a point. Call it: The Swamp Strikes Back. Folks seem to forget that Congress was around long before Trump and will be there long after he is gone. The swamp didn’t form overnight and if you think they are just going to just roll onto their backs, and be submissive, you’re insane. Trump has been hammering them at every turn and they just did a push-back, showing him they aren’t quite as dysfunctional as many believe them to be.

The reality is that they KNOW what they are doing. The T.V. theatrics are just that, well-rehearsed theatrics. It is a spectacle, played by political parties, to appeal to their individual bases.  Republicans blame democrats, who in turn blame republicans, nothing gets done and they all get rich without having to actually accomplish anything.  Trump threatens that status quo and they are doing their best to push back.

Two years ago this month I wrote a post called The Curious Case of Donald Trump that questioned whether he was what we needed. Two years later I can say that I believe he is.

Congress, as a whole, believes they just played him, but I believe they actually played right into his hand. It would have been political suicide for a republican to come out and say that they were against funding the military. Likewise, democrats needed a win and they got it with Planned Parenthood. Most question why they didn’t address DACA, but to be completely honest that is an emotional issue and isn’t really a make-or-break issue for them. In fact, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer actually commented that:

At the end of the day, as the minority party, we feel good about being able to succeed in so many ways. We don’t have the House, we don’t have the Senate, we don’t have the presidency, but we produced a darn good bill for the priorities we have believed in.” 

Think about it for a moment: “…..the priorities we have believed in.”

Translation: DACA folks, you’re not our priority right now.

Remember, if you actually solve a problem then you are no longer able to campaign on it.

I believe majority leader’s Ryan and McConnell overplayed their hand and will come out of this much weaker. Trump campaigned on rebuilding the military, and he got the money for that. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him pull a rabbit out of the hat, in terms of funding other projects, because the devil is always in the details. Republicans on the other hand excoriated the left for reckless spending, but did just that in this bill and they even managed to get democrats to praise it.

Personally, I think we need to hold a Roll Call of our elected reps and ask three fundamental questions:

1.       Did you draft any of the provisions in the bill and if you did which ones?

2.       Did you read the 2,232 page bill?

3.       If you didn’t, why did you vote the way you did?

In the end, I think many will look back at this bill as potentially a new Ides of March moment leading to the downfall of some in Congress.