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Archive for March, 2010

Another Proper Use of the Military – Blowing-up Drug Cartels

Last year I posted an article, “The Proper Use of the Military – Killing Pirates.” Some might argue that using trained soldiers to kill outlaws is not a job suitable to their qualifications. Well given how the pirates were running ransack over ships and what not, and considering how much valuable cargo was involved, I think using trained killers was a good way to stop amateur ones.

Well, you don’t read much about these pirates anymore, at least in U.S. newspapers. Don’t know if using U.S. Navy forces combined with other nations has worked, or not, but I don’t see pirate stories on the news. Now you read about the violent drug war. Mexican drug cartels are really upping the levels of violence being used against foes – government and criminal. The traditional police are definitely not up to this war. And the Drug Enforcement Agency, Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, FBI, Mexican military, whoever, seem to be overwhelmed. You’d think with all the highly trained agents, getting rid of some drug cartels wouldn’t be a problem, but not so. These cartels are well financed, and have the guns to protect themselves, as well as inflict severe punishment on those who stand in their way.

So, my recommendation to the U.S. government, use the full ability and force of the United States Department of Defense. Send in the unmanned drones and blow those cartels off the map. We know where they are, so lets get ’em. Let’s use that “winning hearts and minds” strategy in Mexico. Given the damage that hard drugs are doing, why not pull out all the stops? What do we have to lose…some might argue we are losing already.

I really think how the U.S. military is organized needs to be re-assessed anyway. It is bloated and way overdone. We could slim it down so much. It seems China is way ahead of us in this respect. They announced their defense would grow only by 7.5% this year. That is down from 14.5% last year. This is according to the China Daily. On top of that, the Chinese have announced that their military is strictly defensive in capability. Critics will contend that statement, but they haven’t attacked anyone.

Instead of military spending China is spending money on infrastructure – transportation, agricultural, communications, you name it. The goal is to connect China from one end to the next and make sure people can physically access China. I don’t know if that will stem the potential social unrest that is the backdrop of Chinese development, but fixing and upgrading buildings, bridges, rail, and roads probably won’t anger people. As long as it is done well.

The U.S. needs to optimize the military more efficiently, and put the muscle where necessary. Get those F-35s (whenever they are finished) over Mexico and take out the drug cartels. Use the drones to bomb drug lords. Use those Navy Seals in Coronado Bay to run some assassination operations in Mexico. Those would be overnight deployments. Not to mention it would give the Mexican government some relief, and help them regroup. They are using their military, and seem a bit overwhelmed. The U.S. should bring the noise because this drug war is just as much our problem as Mexico’s; We are the marketplace. So, here is another good use for our military. Instead of fighting endless wars in far off lands. Let’s protect our backyard.

Peace

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What Does Health Care Mean in the United States of America?

March 17, 2010 2 comments

The debate in the U.S. is coming to a head, and the Obama/Pelosi/Reid train seem to be making the final stop, and calling all aboard. Those who are left at the station will…well, they might make one more stop if there are too many people left at the station. That is the state of Democracy in the United States, at this very moment.

There was a point I was pretty sure what the current fight for health care was about. I actually read some of the various bills…well, skimmed and scanned really, but that is more than most laypeople do. I looked for the provisions of discussion, and searched for the nasty deals. I even looked at the Republican offering, and was actually surprised how common-sense it really was. In the early versions of the House bill, constructed by the Democrats, I saw the huge expanse of government the Republicans were fearful of. The bill had commissions for everything, and the Secretary of Health had enormous power. And yes, there was a “public option.” Many of the new commissions were to govern that public-option and make sure it jelled with the private system currently in place. There were also all kinds of professional development programs, and provisions for technology upgrades. The bill was chalked full of things that really amassed to a totally new system. I can see why people might be scared. All these new things, but put into a global context, they were things other countries equally advanced as the U.S. already had in place. Comparatively speaking, the U.S. was playing catch up.

But while this was out there, I didn’t see much Republican opposition except for crap general statements. I followed site after site and didn’t get anything meaningful. Now though, at zero hour, the Republicans seem to have some piece of real identifiable legislation that is running counter to what the Democrats have. You can get all the text, and more at www.gop.gov. Like I said, the bill is fairly commonsense and basically rehashes all the traditional Republican talking points of tort reform, buying insurance across state lines, tax credits, and other incentive based provisions to encourage people to buy insurance. Personally, I don’t see how it controls cost, or lowers premiums, or does anything close to reducing deficit and debt projections. And Republicans definitely do not touch entitlement programs, Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. So, the Republicans do have a plan, just a little too late, and fairly thin.

The thing this whole debate has brought about though is a discussion about what exactly does health care mean for the United States of America? We hear that it is 1/6 of the economy. We hear that more people go bankrupt because of costs related to health care than anything else. We hear that insurance companies make huge amounts of money from health care. We hear that the U.S. system is the best in the world. We hear that our doctors and the actually care is the best in the world. On and on and on and on. We hear so many things. So what does it all mean?

Well, part of my answer is anecdotal. My father went to the hospital after fainting and cracking a rib. His bill was littered with tests and checks and all sorts of things. He was billed for doctors who didn’t even see him. His bill totaled US$55,000. That is a lot of money. I saw it with my own eyes, and I have fairly good eyesight. I was fully awake and not daydreaming (my father has a pretty loud voice so I was pretty alert). Thankfully, he was covered by Medicare, his own private insurance, and my mothers private insurance. At the end of the day, his total charge – US$0. Thank you GOVERNMENT RUN INSURANCE! Medicare picked up the whole shibang. Still though US$55,000 is a lot of money. You’d think he was in the hospital for a month or so, but no, he was in for a few days (over a holiday weekend so the costs were a little higher than normal week days). The ironic thing is the doctors couldn’t find out why my father fainted. The tests were inconclusive. They thought he was just a little too tired. 55 Grand, lots of test, no real answer, but at least his rib was fixed up nice and right.

In the United States, it seems that health care is about cost. Hospital costs, doctor costs, medicine costs, room costs (US$8,000 for one night), malpractice costs, insurance costs, all sorts of costs. It seems, that if government could figure out a way to actually control the cost structure maybe the system would function better…maybe? To that the only real answer to actually impose cost, create a really competitive market by implementing a single-payer tax based system, and make the insurance companies go elsewhere for business. Abolish checklist health care. Get rid of ridiculous lawsuits. Let doctors practice medicine and healing instead of fighting for paychecks. I’m sure the doctors who took care of my father were very comfortable because the minute they saw Medicare plus 2 other major private insurers they stopped worrying about whether the patient could pay for the care, and for them. I would hate to think what the case would be if my father didn’t have that kind of coverage.

In the United States, health care also means jobs. If my father, and mother, didn’t have good jobs they wouldn’t have had the insurance plans to back up whatever Medicare might not had covered. They are retired, but because of the pension plans from their jobs they have excellent health insurance. 30 plus years of hard labor paid off. But that kind of peace of mind came with A JOB! Make no mistake, this health care debate is as much about jobs than any stimulus, or jobs bill, or unemployment number. If health care is the driving force of family bankruptcy then having a job that provides adequate health care is a necessity. If the costs of health care are too high then companies will choose not to hire people. Health care = jobs. I think this message was lost, or was never clearly made.

At the end of the day, health care in the U.S. isn’t about reconciliation debates, or fights to maintain political power. The citizens of the U.S. don’t care who is in a seat. What they want is for their premiums to stop rising. They want treatment when necessary. They don’t want to have to worry about being kicked off a plan, or not being able to join one.

And to push it further, I think the citizens of the U.S. would love a real public plan that covers all people. I think the citizens of the U.S. would love Medicare for everyone. But what they do not have is the leadership to get it done because to the leaders, health care means politics and power plays. For politicians, issues that citizens worry about are about poll numbers and election cycles. It’s about ego. When ego and self-fullfilment is removed then maybe we can get down to the reality of hard choices. But that takes enormous will, modesty, and humbleness that current politicians simply do not have.

So, the choice is a 2700 page bill to who-knows-where…and the cost of doing business in the United States of America – 2010 mid-term elections.

Peace

U.S. America’s Infrastructure Report Card – “D”efficient

Let’s get to the brass tax of the issue, the U.S. infrastructure sucks! For a nation with the highest GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of any nation on the Earth, it is a shame the American Society of Civil Engineers had to give it’s own nation a “D” on it’s infrastructure report card. Not much else to say, read it and weep.

Peace

Not So Easy Being a Princess

March 14, 2010 4 comments

When I was a kid I was bullied a bit. I was picked-on and called nasty names. I had my moments where I wanted to burn down the school, everyone in it and stand on my little kingdom of ash like that kid in the Pearl Jam video, “Jeremy.” The only things that separated me from the kid in the video were that my parents paid attention to me, and that led me to not being self-destructive and suicidal. I had outlets and ways to deal with such pressures. Like I said, my parents listened to me. But my parents never kept me home from school. They never said, “Wayne, you can stay home because some kid called you nigger.” They usually helped me confront these people and put the fear of God in them. I quickly realized that the best defense was having a set parents who were ready to throw punches with any bully in school. That in turn gave me some confidence, and eventually if someone tried to put me down, I would throw punches. I didn’t always win, but I stood my ground and was ready for whatever.

Why do I share this little memory? Because Princess Aiko seems to be going through this exact episode. But her parents have taken her out of school, and seem to be sheltering her. I’m not royalty, nor do I pretend to understand what those people go through, but hell, you’d think the granddaughter of the Emperor of Japan could go through school without being bullied? And you’d think, at least, the parents of this little girl would throw down, and say, “My daughter is a princess of Japan, and if anyone bullies her, heads will roll.” Trust me, my parents said a lot worse to all sorts of people – other parents, kids, school administrators, you name them. I still remember seeing my vice principal piss his pants when my dad rocked his world in his office…great memory, but I digress.

Okay, so I know it may inappropriate to say that, and maybe it only adds fuel to the fire, but at least let her go back to school, and teach her that bullies should never win. She may get bullied, but god damn-it don’t let them win! Teach that girl how to fight for herself! She may not have to throw punches (hopefully), but teach her that mental toughness is what separates the greats from the losers. Bullies pride themselves on having controlled someone, and thus breaking that person. If you don’t let them break you, they can’t win, and they will know it. If it ever comes to it, you may have to fight. So be it. It isn’t wrong. I don’t advocate physical altercations, especially with 8 year old girls, but like my father always told me, “If you do not listen, you will feel.”

I hope Princess Aiko goes back to school, and tells those bullies, “Listen, you have a choice, stop harassing me, or feel my sumo charge.” Incidentally, I read that she is quite knowledgeable on sumo so maybe she can use it to her advantage.

Good luck Princess Aiko, you have a big supporter in a guy who used to be in your shoes…well, without the whole royal family thing.

Peace

Obama’s Consistent Message and Media Muddle

Usually, I love to watch NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Probably some of the best straight ahead news telling on network TV. That said, I am a bit at odds at how they are covering the U.S. health care situation. Actually, I am a bit miffed at how network media in total have been covering the health care debate.

1) Republicans have done something by doing nothing, and instead of calling it like it is, mainstream media really looks past this.
2) Instead of continuing to repeat the same old poll numbers, why not try helping people “make sense of it all” by discussing the actual contents of the bill. Spend some time, energy and money, and break down what the bill is actually saying. Help people understand.

Last and most important point.

3) Why do pundits and reporters continue to say that President Obama has entered this race too late, and that he should have been more engaged all throughout the process? What the hell was holding a joint session of Congress to discuss health care for? He sounded pretty impassioned at that time. Or how about President Obama going on the road and holding town hall meetings to specifically address healthcare? I saw some of those and he was speaking up and telling people what was going to happen. Oh, and there was that trip out west when he was sitting with Max Baucus, point-senator on the Senate version of health care, sitting to his right as President Obama layed out what was in the Baucus Bill. Again, he sounded pretty impassioned to me.

Now it is crunch time, and people are looking for a real decision to be made. Obama did what the Clintons could not, he played the system right. I wish the White House had not retreated and conceded a certain kind of defeat when it said that the message might have gotten lost over the summer. Obama and his crew let Congress write the necessary bills. Congress has to approve and pass law. Obama let them do their jobs. Then after it was all said and done, the President took the best of both worlds and produced a single piece of legislation that should be voted on. The Republicans had plenty of opportunity to be in the mix. If John Boehner could not get a meeting with House Democrats, then that says more about his ability to lead than Democrats shutting out the Republicans. If McConnell wanted to talk with Reid I’m sure he could have.

When this behemoth of a bill gets passed I just hope the President is fully engaged in the implementation process because that will be the true test of successful legislation.

Peace