It’s an endless war on ‘terrr’ after all — Bush was right, apparently…

December 31, 2009
So maybe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and the efforts to thwart terrorists here at home cannot be separated. Maybe this all is just a continuation of George W. Bush’s War on Terror, as war that would know no boundaries and could go on indefinitely, as his administration proclaimed in its time.
The Congress signed on with the acquiescence of the electorate. A new president was elected from the other party and although he condemned the decision to go to war in Iraq — said he was against it from the start, except we should have gone all the way in Afghanistan (not Iraq) with more force and not let up.
I don’t keep close track of polls, but the ones I hear about in the news reports indicate that the public has grown weary with the war in Iraq and I think Afghanistan too. We do not seem to be making much progress in Afghanistan and Iraq is left as a questionable stalemate of sorts — we seem to have stabilized things there to a degree.

But of course the whole premise for going to war in the first place was that we were going after terrorists who struck us in the 9/11 attacks, although I think Bush W. cleverly morphed all that into a war on “TERRRR”, as he pronounced it. Indeed he had been predisposed to go into Iraq before 9/11, for various reasons, to include the fact (I guess it’s fact) that Sadam Hussein had plotted to kill his daddy (the same daddy who at one time supported Hussein), Hussein’s continued violations of the no-fly zone, and maybe most important of all the fact he would not cooperate with weapons inspections — I think that last point has been lost — not that I would be making a case retroactively for going into Iraq. And those inspections were under the auspices of the UN, an organization that does the U.S. little good most of the time, but which is a convenient flag to hide behind when we want to do something. Strangely, the UN did not decide to go into Iraq, but Bush took it upon himself to unilaterally make that decision.

And I should have mentioned the neo conservative doctrine of gaining hegemony in the Middle East by doing such things as going into Iraq, as outlined in their progress for a new century paper, or whatever it was called. Bush W. apparently followed that , especially the part that flat out said we needed another Pearl Harbor to wake up the public. Bush got just that with 9/11.

I hate to rehash the history as a kind of backgrounder for this post, but I guess I have to remind the casual reader that virtually all of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudi Arabians (Saudi Arabia is supposed to be our ally), and they staged their attack from Afghanistan with the protection of the Taliban who ran that nation at the time (and still do run most of it).

As far as I have read so far, Iraq had no direct and maybe no indirect role in 9/11, but I will bet you that 99 percent of the blind supporters of Bush’s War on TERRR wholeheartedly believe that the attack came from Iraq.

Bush of course did send troops into Afghanistan first and for a awhile it seemed as if the U.S. was making progress, but inexplicablyy just as reports indicate we were closing in on Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11, we pulled back and eventually put a much stronger effort into the routing out of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and an occupation of the country and a strong dose of nation building — all with questionable results.

And now we are mired deep in the morass of Afghanistan, a place where outside invaders over the centuries, to include the British, and more recently the Soviets, met their doom.

I heard an Afghanistan expert on the radio the other day. What I got out of it is that the whole thing is hopeless and that if policy makers would just read their history a little better they might make wiser decisions.

Lyndon Johnson inherited Vietnam. His own taped phone conversations prove that he knew it was hopeless from the git go, but he did not want to be blamed for losing Vietnam — even though he hated to stay. So he poured more troops in and the casualties mounted until the American public had had enough with a lost cause, one that was questionable from the beginning.

Afghanistan is not Vietnam. While Vietnam (or the old North Vietnam) never attacked us on our soil, and may not have even fired on those patrol boats in the Gulf of Tonkin ( and why would you sacrifice thousands of American lives for shooting at patrol boats in the first place? ), we were attacked on 9/11 by terrorists who had staged in Afghanistan, and that nation refused to hand over Osama Bin Laden and cohorts.

Nonetheless, President Barack Obama inherited Afghanistan and has indicated he thinks we could have already had victory (not sure what that is) if Bush had not pulled back and took his eye off the ball.

Obama may truly believe that Afghanistan is a necessary fight, but he also knows what would happen if he were to withdraw — the political implications of what would be seen as surrender would doom his presidency.

And I myself realize too that if we are fighting Al Qaeda or whatever you want to call the terrorist enemies (who by the way may not all be allied), the fight can know no boundaries.

We already have accepted that we have to strike in Pakistan, to where Osama Bin Laden et al have thought to withdrawn. And now there is a clamor from the lets you and him fight crowd to go into Yemen and rout out terrorists (we are already reportedly unofficially striking there).

On top of all this we have a guy get on an airliner at Detroit even though he was on some terrorist list homeland security has (fat lot of good that does) and darn near blows it up.

And Al Qaeda (or whoever) brainwashed or at least successfully recruited an American Army major who shot up army personnel at Ft. Hood in Texas.

I begrudgingly agree to some extent that we are in a worldwide war against terror as Bush W. outlined, but I fear we will spread ourselves too thin and expend too much treasure in the process.

You would almost think the terrorists have us where they want us.


Promise for health care reform elusive…

December 28, 2009
 
Still riding on the excuse that I’ve been away from immediate access to news for the past several months, kind of like when I began truck driving I just used the excuse I’m just a beginner, but after some 15 years that has kind of worn out, but you’ll have to give me a break on the new one about being behind on the news — somewhat.
But I thought health care reform held some promise. From an early age I had seen the need for some type of comprehensive health care system. Although my family was blessed with good health I know my father, and mother, were always concerned about the cost of health care and what a real medical emergency or major illness could do to a family’s resources.

Back then not everyone had health insurance through their work — and not everyone does now, of course (not everyone has work).

I honestly don’t know whether my folks ever had health insurance while I was growing up or not — I think not, except possibly when I was a teenager, although I’m not sure whether they had it even then.

Fortunately, when my wife and I raised our two girls, most of the time we had health insurance through work. For years it did not seem terribly expensive, even though at our jobs we had to pay part of the premium cost, unlike for some who did not even have to pay that. In later years the share we paid began to rise.

Years after my children had grown up I got a job where the company paid 100 percent of my health insurance premium and the insurance was good — it paid for a lot of my cancer treatment.

Well due to being out with cancer too long I no longer have that job. I am back at a previous job that has insurance, but it has (had) a higher deductible than before — that is the trend nowadays — it does make some economic sense. But no sooner had I got on the plan than I was told the company is going to a new plan because the old one’s premiums had gone up too high for the new year and was no longer a good value. I have not looked at the new plan options yet and I never really understand the insurance gobbledygook anyway. I don’t feel bad about saying that either. I have heard a lot of otherwise intelligent folks, much more so than I, admit they don’t get it either. Actually that is why our President Obama and all the others on Capitol Hill find themselves deferring to the industry on this health care reform thing. Well that is one big reason. Some of them, such as Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, are in their back pockets because of campaign donations and such (and I suppose a lot of his constituents work for the health care industry). Having the health care industry help do health care reform is akin to having the fox guard the hen house.

And let me stray from the central point here — the promise of health care reform — and note that the term health care insurance or the concept of health care insurance has always been somewhat of a puzzle to me. I understand the basic principles of insurance. The insurance company takes on a risk, that is betting that it can collect more money in premiums than it will have to pay out. If ever there was a riskier pool for insurance, it would seem health care would be one of them. Almost everyone gets sick. So many of us suffer terrible diseases, such as cancer, and unless we get get run over by a freight train (or truck) most of us are sure to get old and probably get some unfortunate medical condition related to age.

And I totally do not understand the concept of being able to get insurance once you are already sick or suffering from whatever you would want insurance for. Maybe I should be hired to make the arguments for the insurance industry.

But it is probably more of a problem of semantics or terminology. Not all health coverage, possibly, should be called “insurance”, really it’s just coverage, help for when you have medical expenses you otherwise could not afford.

Medicare, for example, is not really insurance in my way of understanding. No one who is otherwise eligible for it can be turned down because of pre-existing conditions, and most of its clientele are elderly — a risky group for health insurance indeed.

But back to the central point about the promise of health care reform. So for decades, long after doctors quit making house calls and quit taking chickens for payment, and long after medical technology had exploded and the costs along with it and long after medical professionals realized that this could be big business indeed, millions of folks went without any kind of health coverage because it was not offered through their work or because they did not have steady work or even because they did not have the foresight to realize that a medical emergency could devastate them financially. And buying medical insurance on the open market has always been prohibitive in cost for most.

But over time, more and more jobs offered insurance. At the same time, thanks to president Lyndon Johnson and others, a safety net of sorts was created for the elderly and the disabled and the chronically poor. It was not without holes, especially for the chronically poor and even the newly poor, but it was there.

And over time folks became somewhat comfortable in thinking, “well I have a job and I have insurance, and for those who do not the government will help them”.

But then the costs of even job-related insurance began to climb and due to economic crises, the current one in particular, people lost jobs and their insurance with it.

So, some called for the government to step in and make things right. Some may have envisioned a turn toward what used to be called “socialized medicine” but maybe called it “single payer” or “the public option” (yes, I know on that last one it is not really the same thing necessarily, but it is government involvement and really no one ever clearly defined the “public option”.

Others, perhaps, just thought something could be done to lower costs, say by offering more competition in the marketplace — trouble is some apparently really have the ulterior motive of reducing standards health insurers must abide by to create this competition.

Still others , Obama included, thought there could be some type of compromise, with a blend of public and private.

I was in a hospital bed when Obama was campaigning. So the need for health care coverage came home to me.

One of the most absurd things I witnessed while suffering from the effects of my cancer, which included uncontrolled tongue bleeding, was the fact that the emergency rooms are crowded with people who use them as their family doctor offices because they apparently cannot afford doctors and the law demands that they must be seen. I’m bleeding to death (almost literally, but I didn’t die) and someone ahead of me is being treated for the common cold or the effects of a drug or alcohol overdose.

I want to say here and now that I would not have made it through the last couple of years were it not for the help of family — and that may be the one insurance we should all think about.

And here is something I do not understand. I was in a cancer support group meeting and a woman beside me expressed gratitude that her husband was treated for his cancer free of charge by the hospital because they had no insurance — they ran some type of car repair business, I think she said. He was “self employed.”

Well I do not begrudge him getting help. And I hope that he has survived and is well or at least better off.

But for some reason, everyone who treated me wanted money. Again, if it were not for the help of family and the fact that I did have some job-related insurance, which eventually ran out after I lost that previous job, I would have been out of luck.

Because many use emergency rooms as their family doctor offices and because people without insurance are sometimes, certainly not always, given a lucky break, thanks to various programs and the good will of providers, the paying public has to pay that much larger premiums to make up for the lost revenue. And of course so many things add to the cost: the expectation that we can live on and on and that no treatment is too costly when it comes to saving ourselves or our loved ones, the fact that doctors expect to be paid well — after all that is a big draw to get into the profession in the first place — and the ever-expanding medical technology and the expansion in costs that go along with it.

The cost of medical malpractice lawsuits is also a factor, but would we want to prohibit people from seeking relief through the courts from terrible injustices and encourage the careless practice in medicine in the name of cutting costs? Undoubtedly reform is needed. I would think some control of punitive damages and better judgment by the courts as to whether to even accept many suits could go a long way towards reform.

Oh, and as I have blogged previously and more than once — the medical insurance bureaucracy and all the time it spends trying to figure out how NOT TO PAY CLAIMS is part of the problem.

Even so, I must give credit to the fact that medical insurance has paid an astounding amount of money to keep me and my wife alive and healthy.

One of my brothers told me one of the favorite sayings he has heard is “everyone wants to go to Heaven but no one wants to die”.

I don’t know if that applies here, but I think it does if I even understand that saying. While many people complain about the cost and availability of health care, they decry any form of government control. They are afraid it will cost too much and bureaucrats will be making health care decisions doctors should make.

Well, private insurance company bureaucrats already are doing that on that last point, and as far as cost, no matter what you do it will cost. What many seem to want is a free ride.

And then there are the people who would deny others government help while they clutch onto their Medicare cards. I do not understand that one, and it’s probably not worth much comment. But I have a feeling that many health care reform or government option detractors would be the first in line to get in on any government help if and when they might be in need.

At any rate, at the top of this blog I pleaded that I was behind on the news. I have not followed the health care reform thing closely — mostly have heard the sound bites and caught some headlines and abbreviated accounts.

But from what I have gleaned so far, proposed legislation does not promise to do much for anyone soon, if ever, except Arianna Huffington and others say it is a boon for the insurance industry.

As I have wondered before, why didn’t Obama just seek to cover those who cannot get coverage now?

p.s.

Having some trouble getting type big enough to read on this blog — but of course you can use the “view” option on your computer and enlarge the type size — I’ll try to work this out.


Let’s don’t let the Jewish lobby run our foreign policy; Obama birth confusion strange…

December 27, 2009

Blogging from the road, from a big truck — relax, I’m parked, not driving — is a new experience and a work in progress for me. I’m having to get used to a new computer and have just had to figure out a way to get comfortable doing this. I already found out that the way my truck is set up doing it from the driver’s seat does not work so well. I’m propped up with a pillow in my sleeper, and this seems to work. 

Just took a scan of the news and I see pretend Democrat, Independent or wannabe Republican Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut (and to think he ran for vp awhile back — all I recall is him doing some type of comedy monologue in a t-shirt) apparently wants us to go to war in Yemen because that guy who apparently tried to blow up an airliner over Detroit the other day has some connection with terrorist groups there.

——————-

ADD 1:

As I wrote in a previos blog post I’ve been almost, not totally, out of touch with much of the news for the past several months, and now I realize from reading a newspaper (yeah a newspaper, real paper, that we’re already waging military strikes, supposedly secret, in Yemen.  And while I  would not care to see the U.S. start up new wars or military campaigns anywhere and everywhere there might be folks plotting against us or thinking bad things about us, I do have to say that once we are committed to a war it seems only logical that we go after the enemy (which should be clearly defined) where the enemy is. For example, if we are to continue our fight against the 9/11-related forces in Afghanistan and they have moved to the hills of Pakistan, then it seems logical that there we must go. Pakistan can hardly call itself our ally if it harbors our enemies. So it can either help us or get out of our way. I’d have to go back and read my history (even though I was around at the time), but I never could understand why Nixon was condemned for going after the Viet Cong and/or NVA forces in Cambodia. If the object is not to go after and defeat the enemy, then what is the point of a war? As I recall he did it on the sneak as I guess Obama is doing in Yemen now. I never was a fan of Nixon’s politics, his domestic politics and dirty tricks in particular.

ADD 2:

And yes I know we are already taking on the enemy in Pakistan with drones although we don’t officially comment on that or that is the government does not. I see that there has just been another strike reported. While I think there is room for debate as to whether we should continue to fight a war with seemingly no end, if we are to fight it at all, the Pakistan attacks must continue as long as the enemy stages its forces there.

——————

Meanwhile, columnist Charles Krauthammer is writing that Israel may have to attack Iran to detroy their budding nuclear capability if we don’t. He’s tired of Obama’s nice nice talk and what he said was Obama’s reference to the “Islamic Republic of Iran”, thus legitimizing the violent and dictatorial regime there. 

And to stray for a second, I note the reports of more bold protests from the opposition in Iran, even in the face of police who are firing live bullets at them and the report that a nephew of the main opposition leader was killed in the demonstrations.

Krauthammer says that Obama’s nice nice talk and recognition of the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic, especially his use of its full name,  is wrong, that the opposition needs his support.

In some respects I see Krauthammer’s point. And while I like the diplomatic tone Obama uses when addressing the Islamic world, I agree that he could be careful to not give too much support to the current Iranian regime, other than to recognize the obvious, that they currently hold the power there. I’m also not fond of apologies to the world for things I did not do, for things even Obama did not do. And while I detest the ways of the former president Bush, I don’t think it does much good to dwell on what he did or did not do. 

Note that both Lieberman and Krauthammer are Jewish — not that there is anything wrong with that — and I think the U.S. has spent far too much time falling all over itself to do the bidding of the Jewish political lobby that throws millions of dollars at our senators and representatives each year.
 
While I don’t want to see the likes of Amadinajad of Iran, or whatever his name is, or anyone else, destroying the state of Israel, I don’t care to see Israel or any other nation run our foreign policy. 
 
I’m sure the U.S. would ultimately go to the defense of Israel if need be, and the world knows it, but I wonder if we might do well to play it cool and almost play a neutral role in the never-ending rivalry between the Arab world and Israel.
——————-
Add 3:
 
After my original post, I bought a book called “Power, Faith and Fantasy”, by Michael B. Oren. It’s about the long history of the U.S. in the Middle East. Thumbing through it, keeping my contention that the Jewish lobby seems to often run our foreign policy in mind, a few lines on page 536 of the book jumped out at me:
 
The author said that President Gerald Ford, who took over after Nixon resigned, had proclaimed his administration would go through a “reassessment” of American support for the Jewish state. But he had to change course. “Though founded in 1953 (the Jewish lobby) had only now, in the mid 1970s, achieved the financial and political clout necessary to sway congressional opinion. Confronted with opposition from both houses of Congress, Ford Rescinded his ‘reassessment’.”
————————————–
 
 
The latest terrorist incident on an airliner, which was almost a complete disaster, underscores the fact that this terror thing seems here to stay. But let’s don’t use each incident as a pretext for war — we’re stretched to thin as it is and when we do so we fall right into the terrorists’ hands, weakening ourselves — in his heart of hearts George W. could admit that — maybe. 
 
And like a stuck record or someone who has nothing new or original to say, I will nonetheless say again, as Teddy Roosevelt once suggested: “Speak softy and carry a big stick”. 
 
I understand that was actually from an African proverb. Obama might like that, or at least half of him might. 
 
And what is with these billboards I see, paid for by the so-called “birthers” , that say “produce the birth certificate“? I know that there is a contingent that claims Obama was not born in the U.S. and therefore was not eligible to become president. And to support their contention they say something the effect that he has only produced something like a “certificate of live birth” but not the official birth certificate. First of all I would think it is a moot point now that he is well into his presidency. Second of all, I don’t really know what proves your natural citizenship — lots of people have lost, or courthouses have lost, their original birth certificates. And third, I do have to wonder why Obama could not have or could not now just submit the necessary paper work for public review. All very strange. 
P.s.

And wouldn’t it be ironic if the Islamic revolution in Iran was brought down by a new Islamic revolution. I note the news reports said the protestors were using support from Islamic religious beliefs as they interpret them. And isn’t that what organized religion is all about — someone’s interpretation?


Health care reform could be more simple; Afghanistan tar baby…

December 25, 2009

I was off the internet for a long time due to my old computer crashing and the fact that I have been out on the  road driving a big truck and have felt out of touch with the news. I buy a newspaper from time to time, but there is little to read or at least little I want to read in them these days. But I did catch some radio and TV news and I did glean some things out of the papers.

From what I gather I am disappointed in health care reform. It sounds as if it is too little too late or too much too late or too complicated. I had previously blogged that I thought they (pushers of reform) were perhaps making things too complicated (and probably too expensive in the process).

It seems to me that the primary focus should be to offer coverage to those who do not now have it for whatever reason. It seems to me that this could have been done, and still could be done, by simply expanding Medicare, and in fact there was some talk of doing just that.

Even the most reactionary conservatives, people who may not know what those terms mean (reactionary, conservative), support Medicare, almost as a God-given right. These are folks who swear that they do not believe in any kind of socialism (read “communism”), but stand by their right to receive Medicare and Social Security (“I paid into it”, they proclaim).

This nation, the USA, has a built-in resistance to government-sponsored, single payer health care for all, but over the years it has seen the development of a defacto version of a health care system — basically insurance through your job, Medicare or some form of it (Medicaid and so on) for the elderly and disabled, or just plain private insurance.

But in this process millions of people get left out for a variety of reasons, but mainly cost and unemployment.

So why could we have not simply expanded Medicare to pick up those who could not get health insurance any other way?

In our system, such as it is, those who can afford to pay for their insurance should, even those who might be offered the expanded Medicare.

There would have to be some system or rules to figure out eligibility and a sliding scale to determine who would have to pay and how much. In the process, there would be some inequity. There always is. No system is perfect.

But with tight restrictions, we could have, and still could, offer some type of coverage to all at a much lower cost, saving the massive indebtedness we are headed for.

And while I am on the subject, I want to comment that I had always wondered why there was resistance to allowing insurance companies from operating across state lines, as the Republicans call for. Now I find out from reading the news that one problem is that if allowed to do so, companies would choose to operate out of states that do not have a lot of consumer protection rules. In other words consumer protection rules, such as in California, where I live, could be bypassed. Seems to me that could be fixed. Competition is needed.

WAR, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING — as the old song says.

It seems as if President Obama has got himself stuck in a similar way as the late president Lyndon Johnson did to the Vietnam tar baby. Call it the Afghanistan tar baby. At least Obama did not claim in his campaign for office that he would do otherwise.

But I think we as a nation are either indifferent to that war or have lost sight of what we are trying to accomplish.

I for one have no interest in nation building. True nations are built as an almost natural process by those who live in them.

We originally went into Afghanistan under Bush man junior to go after Osama Bin Laden and Co. and those who aided and abetted him, the Taliban and Al Qaeda or whomever. But Bush lost interest and went to nation building in Iraq. Perhaps Bush or Shrub, as the late Molly Ivans called him, is smarter than I give him credit for. Maybe he realized that Afghanistan was hopeless and thought he could grab som glory in Iraq.

Maybe sometimes the best defense is a good offense. But it seems to me that we should limit our offense to going after those who did or would attack us and not try to re-build the world in our image — we can leave the latter to God.


Back on the blog and Merry Christmas!!!

December 25, 2009

I’ve been off this blog for several weeks, well, actually months, because I got the proverbial day job, no actually day and night job, and on top of that, my computer crashed. Just got a new one — a wonderful and generous Christmas gift. It has taken me a couple of hours to figure out how to access my old blog site, but hopefully, as I key this in, I have figured out how to get back into this thing. This computer is different to the touch, and I am having problems typing (yes I began writing back when we still plugged away at typewriters, and right now this seems as difficult). I’ll get used to this new machine (yes you can tell I am of the pre-computer age by my use of the word “machine”.  I remember old folks, back before I was one of them, old folks, that is, referring to a car as “the machine”).

I’ll make this post short and sweet as I write this tonight, Christmas Eve, because I am tired beyond belief and excited at the same time that I am able to be back  in the blogosphere.

The devout Christians see Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Children everywhere, and adults just as much, see it as a chance to get some cool gifts or not so cool gifts, whatever.

Saw a letter to the editor in my local newspaper complaining that a public school had ruled out any reference to Jesus or traditional Christian religious songs in its Christmas program. This seems absurd to me. But then again, I have to wonder what folks would think, if say, the school allowed or put on a program with a Muslim or even Jewish theme.

I have never thought that the First Amendment prohibited children from praying or singing the praises of Jesus. The First Amendment is supposed to guarantee the right to practice religion — among other things. But of course, the government, or the public school, cannot support any one religion, so the only way the authorities can see to handle this is to prohibit any religious reference in programs altogether.

On a related matter, I am not aware of any school actually prohibiting individual children from quietly praying on their own, although, this may have happened somewhere. School personnel cannot be seen as sanctioning or promoting any one religion or interfering with one’s right not to be religious.

This post is kind of a ramble because I am tired and I am having a hard time navigating this keyboard.

But on this Christmas Eve 2009 I can only hope that we get something out of the teachings of Jesus and learn to enjoy the good earth and the blessings we have been given.

I do not know why we must fight wars, except in true self defense. But I do know from reading the Bible, which good Christians tout  everywhere, that war and terrible violence men inflict upon one another, not to mention the wrath of God, has been a fact of life since the dawn of man.

But Christmas is a time of hope. And I hope that we humans can change and learn to live in peace.

But life is a struggle over limited resources.

Nonetheless, Merry Christmas and a hope of peace for all mankind!