Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dear Senators

To the Democratic Senators who aren't for the public option with the healthcare reform work. What don't you understand? I don't get it. You get low cost health insurance under a federally managed program, just I as do and the 8 or so million of active and retired federal employees. That federally managed program covers every member of Congress and all their staff.

And yet you don't complain about the coverage or the rates. So, you don't want Americans, now estimtated at 10-15 million who are uninsured and that many again who are under insured, and those are conservative figures, to have a similar option as you? What don't you understand about being hypocritical?

So far, you're doing a great job undermining American's confidence in you to represent them. Apparently you really don't want healthcare reform, only the appearance of it to get re-elected. You don't care about the millions of Amerian families who have gone bankrupt from huge medical bills. You don't care about providing even the minimum healthcare for families with income near or below the poverty line.

So what do you want besides votes? Or is it the lobby money you get from the heathlcare industry and health insurance companies? You feel you owe them more than you owe Americans? Who pays your salary? Who are you supposed to represent? Like the American people?

I'm one with a decent affordable health insurance plan, but I also know any severe accident, illness or disease will also bankrupt me very quickly. For the most part I'm relatively safe now, but I want health insurance for everyone, especially familes and more so children. It's about what's best for America and the American people.

But apparently you don't see that, only the industries who write you checks. You have the power to change the course of healthcare in this country for a long time, for the better, for everyone, and best of all for America. And all I see is you tinkering with the edges, trusthing the same private market which got us here to the mess we're in. And you still don't see that.

Well, either you're intentionally blind or ignorant, or both. The 20% of Americans who need affordable insurance won't get it under any plan you've proposed without a public option to make health insurance affordable and healthcare adequate. Otherwise, we'll continue the problem in the future and in 8-12 years revisit it, citing the failures of your work now.

So, if that's whay you want, go ahead and screw the American people. Or you can stop being assholes and do what's right.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Notes from the news

It's Monday, I read the on-line newspapers, usually 3-5 depending on the time. I noticed it's faster to read the on-line daily paper because of the format. There's no pages to turn with the big spread and ads, and yes, I like it. I'm a traditionalist about newspapers, or a curmudgeon to some. I like spreading the paper out with coffee and maybe a snack or meal, and looking at every page and reading the interesting stuff and news, and yes, reading the ads.

The on-line ones aren't necessarily easier to scan because you're reading differently and hoping the headline catches your eye and really does encaptulate the article to go to that Web page. And back and forth you go, the main Web page to the articles or to the section and then the articles. Equally efficient, and different, but not more enjoyable for me. But I'm learning.

Anyway, I diverged so on with the notes from the news, or as I see them.

Afghanistan. General McChrystal wants more troops for Afghanistan. I've posted my basic thoughts on the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And he's right, but he's also repeating what was said in the mid-1960's before the half a million troop buildup in Vietnam. While the numbers aren't the same, the idea is the same. And sadly, it's also the truth and reality.

What he's saying is do we have the stomach and stamina to stay there with significant troops levels - and don't forget logistic, civilian and contract personnel which doubles the numbers (eg. Iraq). - for a long time, at least up to 10 years and maybe longer. And he points out, similar to Vietnam, we, or NATO/US forces, don't control the majority of the country, and what we do control, isn't always stable.

Eight years ago we were assured victory and it seemed evident within a year of it, but then Bush-Cheney and co-horts diverted attention, resources and effort to an imaginary enemy in Iraq - remember it wasn't Saddham Hussein who was the enemy, he was only the poster boy, it was the connections to 9/11 and Al Qeada which didn't exist and the connections to weapons of mass destruction which also didn't exist.

In short Afghanistan got short changed and in the time gap the enemy as they did in previous years with fighthing and occupying force regrouped and gained strength, and a lot of money from the cocaine market. And slowly since we've been waging a status quo war, and the general is saying if we want to win, or achieve some measure of success, we have to commit the resources and especially the troops.

We'll see what happens here and there.

Healthcare reform and its unintended consequences about the taxes on premiums. It seems almost any provision which taxes the "highend" healthcare plans, or to Congress, expensive ones, which aren't always the best or most comprehensive, just expensive, will actually get paid by both the middle class and wealthy.

That's because some of those plans are with companies and with individuals who aren't rich but middle class. And because companies won't charge just those employees for the tax but spread it to everyone in the company. Everyone will share in the employer's tax. The employer won't pay, they're smarter than that. They'll just push it to the employees.

This was part of all of the proposed reform plans. So Congress didn't think beyond the end of their noses, again. Quick and dirty is their motto. We want a quick political answer which sells to the voters. Never mind in time, years down the road, it want come true or really happen, but it's all about the next election.

That's not fair. They're considering the whole problem and issue which is complex to say the least, without any real solutions for everyone today, from the individual to the big health insurance providers. And everyone has a stake it and is lobbying hard, well all are but us the taxpayer who are hoping some organization represents our interests and goals with this.

But in the end, the Senators and Representatives will vote who pays their bills, the industries with the big lobbies. There are some exceptions, as we know from their outspokenness against corporations and industries and the support for the average person, but they're few these days and fewer in this issue.

And as noted, so far there are over 500 amendments to the main bill so it's hard to know what's really in the bill. But in the end, we know that the companies will make out ok, and probably profit from the bill and the average taxpayer and especially the familes, will pay more to everyone. It won't get solved, only patched and kicked down the road a few years or more to the next president.

And to the President, "It won't be affordable." The premuims won't go down. Heathcare costs won't go down. And the healthcare companies and health insurance providers will get richer at our expense. That's the reality Mr. President, because that's what got us here and the change won't effect that very much if at all.

Real healthcare and health insurance reform will come with near-universal coverage and government oversight of healthcare and its associated costs similar to Canda or most of the European countries, and we know that won't happen here. So try hard, promise what you want, but realize we know and see the truth and reality every day in our lives and every month in our premium.

But I'll support your effort to try.

Ok, back to Afghanistan. The real obvious. President Karai didn't win 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff election and we know his opposition got more, but it wasn't just one candidate which makes him the winner by default. There was mass fraud in the election, probably somewhere around 20-25% or more of the votes. And the US is stuck wondering what to do, certify it and a fraudulant President or coax a compromise to get a fraudulant President.

Either way, Mr. Karzai knows he won and he's won our support. He's our lesser of evils except it's more about what the US always does, support dictatorships, or the appearance of it, in some form or manner. We like continunity and consistency, even if it's the worse of the lot.

The latest terrorist(s) arrest. I have little doubt the FBI actually did the right thing this time, instead of creating a terrorist group to arrest them under the guise of fighting terrorism. All the facts seem they were headed in that direction. But let's get one thing clear, a book doesn't make a terrorists.

The FBI says, "He had a bomb making book." Like how many people in the US have these books? Lots I suspect, including the Federal govenment agencies, like the FBI. But private specialists have them, academics and universities have them. some journalists and writers doing research have them. And on and on down the list of those with these books. It's what America is about.

Don't condemn them because of their ethnicity and reading material.

And on the print media, been to a magazine rack recently. I mean a really complete one, like in Borders, Barnes and Noble or any local magazine only store? Rows and rows of them, magazines. There are probably at least half a dozen, and often more, magazines on each speciality. You name it, there are 6-12 magazines on it.

For example? Woodworking, sewing, knitting (separate from sewing), writing, running, guitars (just them), etc. And the big subjects, like the big sports, the news and weeklies, fashion, travel, etc., there are 1-2 dozen of them. Any wonder the magazines are going broke, too much competition for with too little content and too few buying (notice buying) readers.

I say the last because every watch people in the bookstores with magazine sections next to the cafe? People pick up a few, sometimes a pile, get a cup of coffee and read. They'll read them all, then leave. They'll leave the pile on the table for the staff ot put back on the rack.

And these people do this in the face of signs to the cafe, "Purchase magazines before entering cafe" or some such similar words. Even Barnes and Noble tries to separate them to prevent this but they discovered people simply took the coffee to the magazines and sat or stood in the aisle reading and drinking. Then they put stairs in between with signs "No drinks in books and magazine sections." And people took both to the small sitting area near the entrance but inside the store (walk through alarms).

They coudn't stop the problem so they have simply contained it. Borders doesn't even try. Only the specialty magazines shops have and enforce a reading rule. It's their only product and the income. All of them I've been in have policies or watch customers, and will ask loitering ones, just reading upon reading, to buy or leave. And none allow drinks.

What don't people understand to respect the magazine publisher and the workers? All the writers, reasearch staff, editors, etal, and the print companies. What you don't want them to earn a living? You're screwing them while thinking it should be free. It's not free.

What if we demand your work be free? Not because you wanted it to be free and didn't care to earn a living, but because we wanted it free? So stop being assholes. Peruse the magazine if you want, but then buy it or not, but don't read it and leave it. If you want to read it for free, go to your nearest library, you paid for it there.

Ok, enough caffine for one morning. And I have real work to do.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Caster Semanya

Update.--Today (9/19) the news are reporting that the South African sports officials did sex/gender test on Ms. Semanya before she left for her latest competition despite telling her that no tests were done and she was cleared to go and compete. But the team doctor recommended against her going and competing, opening the door to more scurtiny. In short, they lied and for what ever reason they haven't said yet. The final results of the last round of tests aren't scheduled to be released for a few weeks.

Original Post.--The full results of the tests are still out on Ms. Semanya, what she is anyway. And there are a lot of voices arguing the range of views and opinions and what the IAAF should do. And there is a lot of misinformation, mostly speculation, on what she is, and yes, almost all probably wrong.

I won't try to determine what or who she, the information is far from complete, accurate or correct. I can only say she appears to be some form of gendervariant or intersexed, but more a combination of the two, so she doesn't fit any clear group, which is what bother me. Putting labels on her or putting her in a box isn't good, because the labels don't fit and the boxes are full of equally divergent and diverse people.

What I can only guess from the reports is that she wasn't born female as we know and expect females to be. Without ovaries and a womb, that kinda removes a lot of guessing on one end (normal female). Having undescended testes adds to the picture, removing her from the other end (normal male).

Having had genital surgery (to be female) and having a more boyish body probably removes having AIS (since they're usually born with a vagina and develop female body shapes). She is likely another form of sex development where her testosterone had some but not a complete effect to develop her into a boy and man, and maybe a combination of AIS and other conditions.

From there only tests will establish what sex and gender she was born and is know. But that really isn't the question, which is what should the IAAF do with her and her records. I would suggest she, and others like her, be treated like male to female transsexual and apply the same rules. That remove any male factors from her body on par with post-transistion transwomen athletes.

As has been noted, she has a higher level of testosterone than normal women (the testes will do that) but her body isn't fully receptive to it so she ends up in between and a combination of female and male. And that's where the IAAF may have to decide, what natural or artifical level is acceptable for female athletes, based on the normal range expected from women born female and post-transistion transwomen (who are within the normal range of females).

I'm sorry this doesn't sound fair to her. But she isn't fair to the competition. They have a legitmate complaint and the IAAF needs to address them and the competitors to put her on the same field. Give her the choice of changing sex and gender under the guideslines for transwomen or changing her sex and gender marker to male and men.

Anyway, that's my opinion as I read the news. I'm sorry for the publicity about her, but she has to understand she walked onto the world stage open to that scurtiny and was caught. She didn't intend it, and likely didn't know, but she was there and has to stand up to it. And she has choices too, but like it or not, it's not as she is now.

The IAAF has to change as does she, both to be fair to the other female athletes. She also has the opportunity to be an ambassador for other similar athletes. So, while she may not like the choices and the future, it's still there and she still has one. That's her choice.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Roadside Bombs

Thursday the Tacoma News Tribune (TNT) front page had two stories on the recent death of soldiers in Afghanistan. I'm not going to discuss the issue of Afghanistan, at least not here, or the soldiers, who deserved the recognition for their duty to our country. The deaths are sad and a sad reminder of the cost of war. I would, however, like to address the story itself, a small semantic argument with the writers.

In the caption to the photo, the TNT wrote, "...when their vehicle was attacked with a pair of improvished explosive devices.", and in the story below this one with the photo, the TNT wrote, "Two Stryker soldiers from Fort Lewis were killed when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle Monday..."

Well, the stories are true except for one fact, Improvished Explosive Devices (IED's) and roadside bombs don't move. They can't attack anything and they don't hit anything. IED's can be detonated by running over them or by being detonated remotely with a trip wire, radio signal or cellphone. In Afghanistan it's almost always by being run over, and roadside bombs are detonated when run over.

This means the vehicles have to run over the devices to detonate. So the bombs didn't attack anything but detonated after being run over and the explosion hit the vehicles. This is a small and pick distinction, especially when it's soldiers who die, but the TNT should get the facts correct. As was often said about similar situations in Iraq, the papers always wrote the soldiers died when their vehicle hit a IED or roadside bomb.

I'm not going to get into the discussion over roadside bombs, IED's, mines whatever. They're a fact of war and as much as you want to complain about the enemy's use of them in Iraq and now Afghanistan, the US is the biggest producer of them and the US historically been the biggest dispenser of them in the world. And while we perfected them, the Taliban are using more old-school simple ones.

And as we discovered the new armored vehicles built especially for Iraq don't work well in Afghanistan and the ones currently in Afghanistan aren't working. It's why those soldiers died. While the Army keeps selling Congress the need for bomb-resistant vehicles and keeps geting more money for research and production, the vehicles aren't getting better to protect soldiers.

And they're costing $1 Million each. Yes, each, and once blown up, they're pretty much only good for parts for existing vehicles. The Army keeps saying they're for the soldiers, but until they stop been killed by roadside bombs and IED's, the enemy isn't the bombs but the Army brass, Congress, and the companies.

I want to see the headline, "Army vehicles works againts IED's", and maybe some day I will, but not with the state of vehicles now and the enemy getting better with the roadside bombs and IED's, importing the technology and techniques from Iraq. For now, they'll be more headlines, more ceremonies and more grieving families.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dear Senators

Whatever you're thinking about the latest proposal for healthcare and health insurance reform and the national deficit, don't think for one minute you can snowball many Americans over either. You have never passed a budget or bill in recent times that didin't increase the deficit with the exception of some of former President Clinton's budget.

You told us the Iraq war would pay for itself and now approaching $1 Trillion later, where was that idea? You passed tax cuts for the wealthy which has cost the government over $1 Tillion in lost revenue. You have passed many pork-barrel projects for your district or state costing taxpayers $ Billions. George Bush increased the deficit more in his term than all the previious Presidents and you said it was ok, after all you passed those funding bills.

And now you're crying foul over healthcare for the poor? And now you're selling us healthcare reform which doesn't increase the deficit. Did you buy that bridge in Brooklyn only to hope you could resell it to us? And in ten years when it's proven it did add to the deficit, how can we hold you accountable? That's always your saving grace, the future won't hurt you. But it will severely hurt us when we have to live under your new healthcare proposal.

And you'll be retired with nearly free healthcare compliments of the government. How nice of us, and how cruel and mean of you. You scapegoated us for votes and you took the credit and ran for those very same voters. While the uninsured won't be able to afford the option you will offer outside of the public option which you're quickly jettisoning for political expediency, you will look good to the rest of the voters.

That's what you don't seem to realize and understand. Offering incentives to families who are uninsured or underinsured still won't make it affordable. That's why they don't have or have enough health insurance. They need real affordable good health insurance, and the public option was and is the only way to go.

It's about government helping all Americans, not just those who can afford good health insurance. And the more you dance around the public option trying desperately not to include it, you sending the message the poor in this country isn't your interest or your problem. Well, I defy you to live on their salary and say that.

The public option is the only real solution. Health insurance companies won't touch the uninsured or offer better coverage to the underinsured. You know that. We know that. The companies don't see the profit, unless of course you simply write the checks for it, but I guarrantee you it will cost more than the public option.

The government should be the provider of last resort. That's your job to ensure that happens. That's what Social Security and Medicare are about. That's what many government program to assist the poor are for. That's what we all owe as citizens, to raise their standard of living.

Else nothing changes and we'll continue to pay their coverage through the Emergency Room and hospitals who have to take and treat patients without coverage or money. If you want more of the same, then sure, pass your bill and see what happens. If you're so sure and thinks it right for America and Americans, go ahead.

And in a few years when we're be back discussing the failures of your healthcare reform with the reality that 10% or more of Americans are uninsured and another 10% or more are underinsured because you reform didn't work except for the rich and little for the middle class, what are you going to say again.

Oops won't cut it because there's no band-aid big enough and no cure good enough to undo what's been done.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More of the same

I've been reading the news about President Obama's plans for fighting terrorism and terrorists, and lo and behold, after all the rhetoric in the campaign against former President Bush's policies, he's pretty much following those policies. He found himself in the middle of reality and faced with using existing tools, tweaked to look more humane, or develop new ones.

And he found the current political and legal toolbox nice, with all of its neat torture tools, Geneva Convention aside or wrapped around them, the invasion of privacy rules, only for suspected terrorists of course, loss of legal rights, again only for terrorists, and security rules, to hide any violations and protect violaters. Yup, it's quite a set of tools.

And so President Obama wants the Patriot Act renewed, and only Congress is hedging the rules in the law to provide more rights and protections for citizens. They're doing this because every audit to date on the Patriot Act has shown the FBI never worked within it, and always violated it. And they've shown that 95% of the search warrants under the Act weren't for suspected terrorists, but ordinary crimes.

The FBI has been using the Patriot Act in place of other existing legal avenues to investigate suspects because it removes the safeguards, like a judge's review and signature, from their work. They short cutted the system for no real reasons except being too lazy to prove their case to a judge and give the suspect, many times just ancillary people or innocent citizens, rights. And they've failed to followup warrants with the evidence in the timeframe to a judge.

Cheating to fight crime is one thing, widespread and wholesale cheating to fight crime but including innocent people, especially citizens, is far and away another thing. And it's why the Patriot Act doesn't need to be renewed or even extended. It's just needs to be stopped and make the FBI do the work they're supposed, under the law with all the rights and protections afforded suspects.

And if Congress wants to renew the Patriot Act, they should really pare it down and put in a lot of rights, protections and especially oversight. It's time the pendulum swung back in favor of citizens. We don't need stories about what happened when the FBI used minimal and often unreliable or noncredible information or evidence, and sometimes just creating it, to arrest and detain citizens to later, often months to years, without any charges and having to rebuild their life and career now destroyed.

Anyway, the discussions are just starting, so I'm early, but I want to express my view as I did when the Patriot Act was first proposed and then renewed. It's not necessary and hasn't proven sufficiently successful for the lost of privacy, rights and protections. We as citizens aren't the enemy and shouldn't be treated like we are. That's what the FBI needs to learn and remember.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I'm amazed

I've been listening to the healthcare reform and insurance debate, like I haven't blogged enough already last month and this, but I'm always amazed that all the pundits, analysists, politicians, etal who are heading the debate on or from both sides don't have problems with their healthcare. Really.

Not, I'm sure all of those folks have excellent, affordable healthcare. They have their insurance through some larger providers, Congress through the government, which is another contradiction on their part - they argue against the public option for you or I while getting excellent government healthcare cheap - and all the rest through company plans. They's sitting pretty, so they can argue against anything.

That's their advantage. And it's also, like the millions of federal or military retirees, I get good healthcare at affordable prices. But until the military thorugh the Veterans Administration, mine as a federal retiree is through private companies. It's the Federal Emplyees Health Benefit Plan (FEHB). It's one of the best run programs of the federal government, and it's not paid by the government, but only partially for the employees and none for retirees.

Retirees pay full fare for their health insurance. There are over two dozen companies offering over 50 different plans for individuals and families. And surprisingly, there's always more companies bidding to join the program despite about 60% enrolled in some Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan. That means 40% of 8+ million customers is a lot, and worth providing affordable health insurance.

And so, yes, I can also be in the class of the others arguing for or against something knowing it doesn't and won't really effect me directly. But it does because I use the same pharmacies, the same doctors, the same hospitals and clinics as everyone else. I face the same issues and often problems with healthcare, and I face the same issues and problems with my health insurance provider.

I'm just one of millions of their customers. Just like you. So I'm there too, only with a small distinction about my insurance. It's what federal employees work for less salaries and less benefits for their career for, a good annuity and affordable health insurance. We sacrificed the benefits of the private sector to serve the public and for the rewards in retirement. That's our choice as yours was for you.

But it's those with the loudest voices in the debate that bother me. They argue principles and issues with no real idea of the average person's life and world. They're not financially strapped living day to day at worst or month to month as many. They're not personally strapped to worry about their home, the bills, their children's health and welfare, and our neighborhoods.

They don't face wondering if their job will disappear tomorrow because of some global corporate decision finally faced implementation at their workplace and office, to see the job shipped overseas for the company bottom line, profit and shareholder value. They can stand their and shout knowing it's not about them but about us.

And that's what they're trying to do, convince us they really are like us. They're not by any stretch of the imagination. If they did, they wouldn't say what they saying in our name and for us. They only know their reality which isn't about reality or the truth, but just their idea of our world and life.

They really are clueless. And all the while we watch them on TV, listen to them on the radio, or read, listen and watch them on the Internet. And we think they're right or not. We think they know us but they don't. They don't have to, they've already convinced you.

That's our failure, to see and recognize the con and scam by these people. it's worst with our Congressional representatives who argue against the public option. They have it and use, and wouldn't change that (and they also control that too). But they don't want it for the rest of people in this country. They can increase the deficit with their health insurance and healthcare at public (ours) expense, but you can't.

And that's the amazement. It's not about what they say, but about how they live. That's what we should be looking at first before we listen to them. Shouldn't we if we really want to know they what they say is real and true? Because in the end, it's not real or true. And shouldn't we all be amazed at their indignity?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

More there

I've added a series of posts about the healthcare reform issue on my main blog. You can read the many rants I have against the protesters, Congress, companies, media, etc. All of them roasted. Or not. It's all just my opinion, nothing more and nothing less, and just like yours, a voice. Our right to our soapbox.

That's all for now from here. There's always more in the future to fill the spaces empty of words.