It's another week when I have so many items today which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them that I won't be able to share them all. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."
I am pushing all the other stories to the back to start with this one: The Pentagon is demanding the return, by California National Guard veterans who servied in combet ten to fifteen years ago, of enlistment bonuses that they were paid. As a veteran, this just frosts me.
Most of my ten years in service were spent in the Disbursing field (as the Navy and Marines call it; the Army and Air Force call it Finance. Prmarily it means payroll.) We used to have an in-joke about the complainer:
Hey! you shorted my paycheck this month!
Well, yes. That's because we overpaid you last month. You didn't say anything then.
Well, one mistake I can forgive, but not two in a row!
In other words, yes, we did make mistakes, and had to correct them, and it wasn't always pleasant. But our mistakes were things people might be expected to have been aware of. This is an entirely different situation. These are people who were paid large sums of money essentially to go into indentured servitude for years of their life. Many received life changing injuries during this period of servitude. There is no way they could have known or predicted that any money they were receiving was paid incorrectly. And it darned well is possible to write them off. Some of them have been. But not everyone has the resources to fight.
One retired major, an Iraq veteran, is being required to repay a $20,000 bonus because no one can find a copy of the contract he signed. Ironically, his current job is as a financial crimes investigator. He's close to exhausting his appeals.
A sergeant first class from Oroville filed a class action lawsuit in February on behalf of all soldiers who got bonuses, on the ground that the California Guard "conned" them into enlisting or reenlisting. In August he got a letter from the Pentagon waiving repayment of his bonus. (He still owes for some student loans, but loans are loans, I can grasp that.) Then, the US Attorney petitioned the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that it was now moot since the SFC's debt had been waived. My, my. That's a cheap way to get out of a lawsuit. The motion is expected to be ruled on by January.
Megaera, I think maybe the best person to target here is this judge who will be ruling on the motion to dismiss the class action suit. Don't let that happen. The suit will not put people's lives back together, and it certainly will not put people's bodies back together, but at least, if won, it will reach groups of people rather than individuals, and they won't have to be fighting alone. Good luck.
Of course the veterans affected by these recoupment efforts were all honest soldiers. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of what I might call dishonest soldiers – dishonorable soldiers – deplorable soldiers? – in our midst. Three of them, calling themselves "Crusaders," were arrested a bit over a week ago, and, perhaps because they were arrested and were off the street facing charges, have not attracted a lot of attention. Not that they deserve it, but the swamp from which they came does deserve at least some of our attention.
These three individuals, Curtis Allen, Patrick Stein, and Gavin Wright, were arrested on October 14 on charges stemming from a plot to attack a housing complex which includes a mosque in Garden City, Kansas. The complex is home to a number of Somali immigrants. The "Crusaders" were going to put four explosive-laden vehicles, the explosives in question including ammonium nitrate, as used by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City in 1995, at the four corners of the complex.
They also had a long "to-do" list of other buildings to target, including but not limited to churches that have supported the relocation of refugees. All the locations were referred to as "cockroaches."
They do seem to realize that they are not socially acceptable, seeing as they operate largely through closed Facebook groups. One of these groups, "III% Security Force of Kansas," has members who include Patrick Stein – and 45 other people. I did have to chuckle over the name of the group that they at least have the consistency to eschew Arabic numbers. Most wingnuts aren't that consistent.
Dear Tisiphone, perhaps you could infiltrate one or more of these groups – and then give them a little explosion of their own, as only Erinyes can. But don't neglect following the court case and ensuring conviction and effective sentencing.
Speaking of courts, some of us may remember the sad case of Kalief Browder.
Kalief Browder was arrested in 2010 at age 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack, a charge he adamantly denied. Unable to afford the $3,000 bail, Kalief was sent to Rikers Island to await trail. He was incarcerated for three years—the majority of which was in solitary confinement—awaiting his day in court. That day never came. The charges were dropped, and he returned home in 2013. (emphasis mine)
In 2015, at the age of 22, Kalief, who had shown obvious personality changes after his release, hanged himself. His family filed a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city of New York. But closure, if it comes, will be too late for his mother.
Venida Browder succumbed to heart complications on Friday, Ocrtober 14. Her lawyer told the New York Daily News that she "literally died of a broken heart."
Earlier this year, she has spoken with the Marshall Project for the upcoming video series We Are Witnesses. If you click through you can see that video. If you can bear to. One quote: “[Prison guards] told him, ‘We’re going to break you,’ ” Browder said. “That’s what they told my baby, that they’re going to break him, and in reality they did.”
Alecto, although it is too late for Venida, Kalief's brother Akeem is still fighting. The lawsuit may help him get some closure. Althoug I am pretty sure he would feel even more vindicated if you were able to shut down Riker's Island completely. Good luck with that.
The Furies and I will be back.
Cross posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/4017308
UPDATE: There is now a petition at whitehouse.gov to forgive these bonuses: