Ironic that the VA is encouraging HIV/AIDS testing these days

It is a little bit funny — and certainly not in the ‘ha ha’ way — that one of the top features on the Department of Veterans Affairs Web site touts regular testing for HIV/AIDS testing. Make that downright ironic.

Now more than ever would be a good time for some veterans to get tested, especially if they are VA patients and especially if they had dental treatment at the John Cochran VA hospital in St. Louis. More than 1,800 patients received letters from the VA saying that sterilization of some dental equipment had not been up to standards and could have created a “low risk for infection.”

This is not the first such breakdown leading to risk of diseases involving the VA. In 2008, the VA reached out to more than 10,000 patients who might have been exposed to diseases such as Hepatitis through “cross-contamination” of endoscopes at three different hospitals across the country. The VA has also received a bevy of bad publicity over the years because of issues such as substandard care of elderly and with cleanliness problems at several hospitals.

These are just a few of the many problems the VA has had to deal with ranging from veterans benefits claims stacking up to long waiting times to see medical specialists. It is hard to imagine the ones not reported. Many problems, big and small, never see the light of day because so many of the VA patients are of that “greatest generation” and some slightly younger whose  habit it is not to complain. “Things were screwed up in the Army,” some of these old timers think. “So it is sure to be screwed up in the VA.” And sometimes, thing are really screwed up.

I have to say that I am disappointed with retired Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shenseki, the secretary of veterans affairs. I would have thought he would have brought some good ol’ Army butt-kicking with him to the cabinet post. Yet, I have seen no indication that the VA has vastly improved under his tenure.

I sure hope that changes before people start actually catching these diseases like HIV from behavior no more risky than going to the dentist.

A best picture race for an Oscar and the surrounding hoodeleyap

It’s the day after the primary elections here in Texas. I hope everybody’s candidate won. Think about that for a minute.

These days I don’t make it to the movies much anymore. I don’t know why. But I have been following all the buzz about a nominee for Best Picture at the Academy Awards this week. Of course, there is always some buzz surrounding the coveted of the coveted Oscars. It’s office politics, which I don’t like at all. So I sure as hell don’t like the office politics of the Oscars. This year in particular it’s disgusting — sort of — and I’ll tell you why if you don’t go off in a huff and leave what you are reading. Don’t worry, I’ll get there soon. Soon enough.

Most of the hoodeleyap (Hey, that’s a good word I just made up! It’s pronounced “WHO-del-e-yap,” only faster and means bodougleypot. “BO-doo-gul-e-pot”) concerning the Oscar for best director is over the 2/3rd’s computer-generated Avatar directed by James Cameron and Hurt Locker, which is directed by Cameron’s ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow.

Certainly, the media has made much of possible Oscars going to one of a divorced, but friendly, ex-couple who directed these films. Also, if Bigelow wins she will be the first woman to win the hideous-looking gold statuette for directing. Other sideshows to this story have likewise appeared to build up the hype for the Oscars and their potential winners:

  • While Hurt Locker — a story about an explosives demolition unit on a tour of duty in Iraq — has received critical acclaim the film also has drawn the ire of some Iraq veterans and active duty soldiers. They say the thriller doesn’t realistically portray soldiers doing their job, that it makes troops seem reckless and has other less-than-authentic aspects. This is even though Defense Secretary Robert Gates liked and recommended the movie while the military withdrew its assistance in the film in 2007 for unflattering portrayals of soldiers. Uh, you want reality? Go watch C-SPAN.
  • Yesterday Nicolas Chartier, one of the Hurt Locker‘s producers, was barred from the Oscar presentations for e-mailing messages to Academy members that ask for their votes for the film. No tux and red carpet for you, Mr. Chartier!
  • Today an Army master sergeant and bomb expert filed a suit against the film’s screenwriter, who is also one of the producers, for exploiting the sergeant’s service. The soldier claims the film is based on his experiences and that he coined the term “Hurt Locker.” Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he halfway did.

Well, like “they” say, no publicity is bad publicity. Or maybe it is. But it’s Oscar time! Break out the 40-year-old single malt and the good silverware! That’s not in my case of course, and I most likely, more than most likely won’t be watching the Oscars. But I have to admit, I would like to see the movie, the Hurt Locker.

It’s another one of those far-off Hollywood happenings — the aforementioned hoodeleyapthat don’t really mean anything or matter in the least to the average beer-swilling and gun-toting American who washes up once a week and goes to the picture show. But I suppose all the hype makes us want to watch the car wrecks on the big screen which will, in this case, be big improvised explosive devices that go “boom.”

Houston VA: MEDVAMC H1N1 AFT; Plus: Time for 'Horns HC Muschamp?

A memorandum dated Jan. 4  from Adam C. Walmus, director of the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center (MEDVAMC)  in Houston, and e-mailed Jan. 8 by MEDVAMC spokeswoman  Bobbi Gruner announces vaccinations are now available for the 2009 H1N1 flu virus.

All I can say to this is reflected in one of the acronyms used in the headline above, AFT. The acronym, pronounced in the phonetic alphabet we used in the military, is pronounced “Alfa Foxtrot Tango.” I don’t know if that is a widely-used acronym but it’s one I chose to use of the ilk popularized in the Stephen Coonts book and later movie “Flight of the Intruder.” That acronym was “Alfa Mike Foxtrot,” for “adios mother f***er.” I use the acronym “AFT” to mean “Alfa Foxtrot Tango,” to stand for “about f***ing time.”

I am sure there is an explanation why just now, in January 2010, the H1N1 shots are now finally available. The VA has known about the so-called “Swine Flu” for quite some time. A Houston VA press release from October noted:

“The H1N1 Flu is of concern to experts in the medical community because it is so new that very few people have any protection or “immunity” which means the virus may easily find vulnerable people to infect. As a result, it may spread rapidly to large numbers of people. Therefore, health care facilities may find it difficult to care for large numbers of patients with severe illness.”

The October release went on to say the hospital had received 300 doses of the vaccine and listed the priority of those who should get the vaccine. What they didn’t say was did the patients in those priority groups actually receive the shots? What do you want to bet that if I asked the Houston VA who, in fact, received the 300 initial doses I would be told that information cannot be released due to privacy laws?

I said there was probably an explanation why it’s taken so long to get the H1N1 shots to the general patient population within the MEDVAMC kingdom which includes outpatient clinics in Beaumont, Lufkin, Conroe and Galveston. I didn’t say it was a good explanation.

Fortunately, no large outbreaks of the Swine Flu have occured among veterans in this portion of Texas, at least no large outbreaks that come to mind. But the H1N1 is still a pandemic so it’s fortunate there aren’t more dead, especially older or our youngest, veterans.

When the pandemic is over, I hope the VA as a whole will do a thorough after-action review of their reaction to the outbreaks. I’m sure they will, but hopefully it will be honest and not just the same old glazed over horse s**t one seems to see coming from one VA report after another. The whole VA pharmaceutical system needs a careful going-over as well.  I can’t help but think — with such vast differences in medication given from one VA hospital system to another — that the acquisition of medications might be ripe for some kind of corruption. I’m not saying that’s the case, but it’s a suspicion.

Nevertheless, it’s AFT that the Swine Flu shots are available and unless I get the flu first or the VA runs out, I plan to get my vaccine during my next regular appointment in two weeks.

Something’s rotten in Austin

Only a few thoughts to follow up on last night’s “Pasadena Massacre.” I am talking about the Citi BCS National Championship in which Texas QB Colt McCoy was knocked out of the game the first rattle out of the box. I think The Regents should just pay Mack Brown all those millions and move defensive coordinator and heir-apparent Will Muschamp up to head coach.

Man, the game just turned to Bevo poo after freshman Garrett Gilbert was sent in to replace McCoy. I don’t fault Gilbert. I think he showed some flashes of not-badness. It just seemed the game had been choreographed like a Broadway production starring McCoy and the stand-in hadn’t been properly trained to know where the other cast members were supposed to stand.

Gilbert made a few bad passes. He was supposed to, he is a freshman. He also threw some passes that should have been caught. It was if the hearts and souls of the remaining offensive players flew off to the locker room when McCoy departed with his injured shoulder.

Although the score, 37-21 Alabama, doesn’t really reflect it, the Texas defense looked pretty awesome. Alabama QB Greg McElroy was sacked a season-high five times. That is why I think the loss falls mainly on Mack Brown. It was like he never thought of the possibility his star quarterback and field marshal would get hurt. And since the defense was the bright  spot for Texas and that Brown has made defensive guru Muschamp his replacement, Brown should have himself replaced, at head coach at least. They could keep Brown in recruiting and PR. He seems to really excel there.

After watching the game, I believe that Texas could have won if McCoy had not been knocked out of the game. But that’s not a given. Running back Mark Ingram brought back visions of “The Earl of Texas,” that being Earl Campbell. Both were backs which reminded me of Hurricane Rita blasting her way through the Pineywoods. There wasn’t anyone able to stop her. The same goes for Earl and the Tide’s Ingram. As I heard one caller to a sports talk show say this afternoon, the game was one “played by boys against men.” In a way, the caller was right.

Still, you have to wonder what would have been had McCoy not been injured. And you wonder what round McCoy will go in the NFL draft who picks him. Also, I heard it said that Alabama’s McElroy had never lost a football  game since the eighth grade. How do  you think he will feel when he gets to the NFL and finally loses that first game?