Soap Box

Vets to get Agent Orange benefits

To the editor,

Blue Water Navy veterans who served in Vietnam are now entitled to a presumption of service for conditions related to Agent Orange exposure. This is a result of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019. Signed into law June 25, the law takes effect Jan, 1, 2020.

The law states that Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard veterans aboard a vessel operating not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia between Jan. 9, 1962 - May 7, 1975 are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides such as Agent Orange and may be entitled to service connection for conditions related to that exposure.

To be entitled for disability compensation, veterans must have one or more of the conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure.

The surviving spouse of a Blue Water Navy veteran may apply for survivor’s benefits if the veteran passed away from a condition related to Agent Orange.

It is recommended that all Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard veterans (and surviving spouses) who were previously classified as Blue Water Navy veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam contact their local County Veterans Service Officer for more information about the claims process.

The La Plata County Veterans Service Office provides information and assistance to veterans and their families so they can maximize their quality of life, well-being and potential. There is a wide range of benefits available. These services are free of charge. Please visit the La Plata County website at for more info.

The La Plata County Veterans Service Office is co-located with the Durango VA Clinic at 1970 E. 3rd Ave., Suite 102. For appointments, call 970-247-2214. The Veterans Service Office phone number is 970-759-0117. Office hours are 8 a.m. – 12 noon and 1 p.m. - 5 p.m., Monday – Friday, except holidays.

– Richard Schleeter, La Plata County Veterans Services

Fascism: the real American enemy

To the editor,

It is too hard to express how deeply I was impacted by the El Paso murders. I was an immigrant to New Mexico in 1983, and I lived there until moving to Durango in 2012. Despite the quirky, quasi New Age “anglo” that I was, I was welcomed by the wonderful, homespun people in New Mexico.

There were the people of New Mexico and there were the nomads – homeless white folk looking for love in all the wrong ways and thinking they could make a better planet when they only wanted to make it better for themselves. The people of New Mexico permitted that. The

“native anglos” and those who were Hispanic opened their home, their Land of Enchantment, to us.

It was obvious from the place names, architecture, strength of the Catholic religion that we were the immigrants. It was also part of our acculturation to learn that; to understand why the “mixed culture” was the way it was and to treasure the harmony of the three races that blossomed in our beloved state.

On Aug. 1, the Telegraph printed an excellent letter about Donald Trump’s racist behavior against blacks on the East Coast, citing government convictions he was not an equal opportunity renter and revealing he had blacks “cleared” from the Atlantic City casino floor.

Then, a lone white man opened fire in El Paso, targeting Hispanics. I immediately heard so much talk about immigrants and how anti-immigrant rhetoric had been ratcheted up to this pernicious level, that I didn’t come to my senses until seeing the victims’ photos. This deranged serial killer didn’t shoot “unwanted” immigrants, he shot American citizens and tourists.

In picture after picture of the seven dead Mexicans, I saw neat and trim, bourgeoisie, well-fed, respectable types who, I dare say, drove legally through customs and were welcomed into this country to spend their money.

This is not an immigrant issue. Border cities want this business. These tourists pay taxes, patronize restaurants and look to have some good, clean fun. Go to El Paso and tell me who the latecomers are, who the aliens are. The only race of sufficient numbers to constitute an immigrant population in El Paso is white.

I resent hate-filled white men attempting to portray all us white Americans as some master race (however imperfectly we master ourselves). If this is what they believe, stewing in this melting pot that made America great, this is not where they belong. The allegiance we all pledged to America ends with freedom and justice for all.

I am sickened that hard-working, school supply-shopping Americans can be gunned down in the store and “talking heads” on television can only conceive it as an immigrant issue. This is nothing less than a gross insult to hard-working, taxpaying Americans. Is it any less insulting to the gunned-down Mexican tourists? We owe Mexico an apology. How can its citizens be murdered and it be spun a strictly American issue?

We are on the verge of throwing our beautiful Southwest into a land of fear and terror, with all the subsequent economic fallout. Hispanics and anglos live together in comparative harmony in the Southwest, appreciating each other, laughing with each other, helping each other. Hispanics can walk in the Southwest with heads up, proud, rooted in their families, culture and their homeland. This is what they deserve, even before considering the high percentage of them who are veterans.

But I don’t hear the right people, the people with the real power, saying that. I hear them saying, “They’re not one of us.”

I have read of when the Irish were “not one of us.” I have read the same of the Polish and the Italians. When World War II was threatening, there was talk the Germans weren’t one of us. Should they have been put in concentration camps?

I have read of people in power wanting to label those who “fight” fascism as “terrorists.” Who are the terrorists in this country? Who kills the most innocents? Let’s not forget Timothy McVeigh. Is it terrorism our white elite is fighting or is the terrorist label being continually broadened against anyone opposed to the fascist agenda?

When my stepmother was taking her citizenship test in the ’70s, there was a question meant to filter World War II fascists. For whatever reason that is still in place and pertinent. Fascism is inherently un-American! We must stop these mentally ill people, for this illness is not only a proven contagion, it has always proven malignant.

How can I stay true to my pledge of allegiance without letting all flirting with fascism know they should go back where they came from: last century.

– Philippe LeFevre, Durango

BLM wants to liquidate your lands

To the editor,

The Bureau of Land Management manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any federal agency. This land is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. Over 64 million Americans – more than one in six – live within 100 miles of public lands managed by BLM. These lands provide outstanding opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hunting, angling, camping, hiking, climbing, wildlife viewing and many other activities. Colorado has 8.3 million acres of BLM public lands.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration appears to be putting the BLM public lands that hunters, anglers and others rely on for outdoor recreation at risk. Recently, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed an order naming William Perry Pendley – a lawyer with a long history of opposition to public lands – acting director of the Bureau of Land Management. This order puts him at the top of the agency, but without a Senate confirmation process.

“William Pendley has made a name for himself by relentlessly and brazenly attacking our American system of public lands and waters and advocating for the sale of this priceless American legacy,” Backcountry Horsemen and Anglers President Land Tawney said. “Mr. Pendley is not someone who should be entrusted with the management of our public estate. The fox has taken control of the hen house, and he is poised to systematically dismantle the very resources he is charged with overseeing.”

Pendley is the former president and founder of the pro-development law firm Mountain States Legal Foundation. He has ties to a number of notorious anti-public land groups, including the American Lands Council. He argued in a 2016 National Review article that the “Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold.”

Pendley is, in a nutshell, an extremist nut and an outright enemy of America’s great public lands hunting-angling heritage. “Holy smoking bombshells. People better wake up,” Hal Herring, Field & Stream contributing editor wrote. “We’re not making ourselves heard, and we’re about to hit a tipping point of real loss. One of the most prominent firebrand voices for divesting public lands is now the head of the BLM.”

Kayje Booker, policy and advocacy director at Montana Wilderness Association, stated in a press release, “It’s hard to imagine anyone in this position more dangerous than William Perry Pendley.” U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., issued a statement calling Pendley’s BLM leadership “a grave threat to the future of public lands.”

Today, the No. 1 threat to the future of hunting and fishing is loss of access to quality habitat. America’s public lands are critical if we are to maintain our hunting and fishing traditions and freedoms. Mr. Pendley has made it clear that he plans to do everything in his power to liquidate America’s great public lands estate.

We need you to contact your senators and voice your opposition to this appointment. Our public lands and waters are a foundational part of this country – we need to ensure that they rest in good hands. For additional information and to take action visit: www.backcountry

– David A. Lien, Co-Chairman, Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

Paying for Mr. Trump's golf habit

To the editor,

For all who voted for Trump, so far he has lied to the American Public over 10,000 times. One of the big lies was when he said he would work in the White House and wouldn’t have much time for golf like Obama did. Well, the count is 187 days of golf for Trump at his own golf courses to the tune of $102 million of your money. You the taxpayer has paid this much.

Oh, you say Obama golfed, so what did he cost you?  Well $12.7 million for the eight years, and mostly at military bases.

Trump spent 252 days at his properties like Mar a Lago and Trump Bedminster in New Jersey. This is your tax money going into his pocket. What a deal for him.

Remember, he has security that stays with him on his property, and you pay for it. If you think this is right call your representative or senator as maybe you can get invited for a round of golf on your dime.

– Bob Battani, Dura

Stop for-profit health care insanity

To the editor,

All but a handful of Americans currently have high premiums, high deductibles and poor coverage – or no coverage at all. Despite the fact that so many of us are un-or under-insured, our average health care costs per person are the highest in the world, by far. We all know someone who is struggling with a choice between health and financial solvency. If it costs $1,000 to take your kid to the ER, you are faced with a deadly choice. That’s insane.

National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA) would cover every American from conception to death very well – with comprehensive benefits, no questions about coverage or benefits, and no co-pays or deductibles. That means no insane choices between rent money and health care. Costs for covering every one of us would be far cheaper per person than what we pay now.

As with Medicare, a NIMA system would mean that we have one funding source – “single-payer” – that pays for all medical care provided by any provider. As with Medicare, providers, hospitals and clinics are privately run.

So “universal, single-payer health care” does NOT equal “government-run health care,” as insurance lobbyists want you to think. It means efficient, excellent care, as recorded year after year by the World Health Organization which rates NIMA-type systems as the most effective in the world. No wonder 70 percent of Americans favor a shift to NIMA.

Our American system is chaotic – it’s not designed for patients, but for profit. A friend’s twin granddaughters were born premature, their lungs undeveloped at 7 months. They, and their very stressed parents, rotated in and out of the hospital to address breathing issues. Recently, one twin was admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit closest to their parents’ residence. Shortly after, their mother realized that the other twin was also suffering respiratory distress, but her spouse had the car, so she had to rely on an ambulance to reach the ER. As frequently happens with for-profit health care, the ambulance company only served one hospital – the hospital across town, not the parents’ preferred provider. So the twins were split up across town from each other, which required separate visits from their parents. More stress for everyone, and worse care for the patient.

This sort of insanity would not happen in any other developed country. Why? In all other developed countries care is centered on the needs of each patient, not on the competing claims of provider clinics in their effort to stay afloat. In those countries all citizens can go to any provider. Because all records are available in one database, administrative costs are dramatically cut. Compare Medicare’s administrative costs (2-3 percent) to those of our current, fractured for-profit system – 18 percent.

Get in the game – call your representative, write a letter and come to the local presentations of Healthcare Durango. Talk about it with folks you know. Enough nonsense! Let’s vote for National Improved Medicare for All.

– Kirby MacLaurin, Durango