Friday, August 26, 2005

A Democrat with an Iraq Strategy

Wes Clark is laying it out there in his op/ed today for the Washington Post.

First he lays out where he thinks we went wrong in Iraq. Yes, including the first mistake , the invasion. He includes errors of all varieties including. diplomacy, politics and military operations.

Then, he proposes alternative strategies. Not that I agree with all of them. Like - he still wants a military commitment of indefinite duration, but he does say we should renounce permanent bases. But there are specifics here and its a brief but fairly comprehensive proposal.

Read what he has to say that leads to this conclusion:
The growing chorus of voices demanding a pullout should seriously alarm the Bush administration, because President Bush and his team are repeating the failure of Vietnam: failing to craft a realistic and effective policy and instead simply demanding that the American people show resolve. Resolve isn't enough to mend a flawed approach -- or to save the lives of our troops. If the administration won't adopt a winning strategy, then the American people will be justified in demanding that it bring our troops home.
Clark may not be an officeholder (yet), but he made enough noise in '04 to be a major voice in the debate. Now it is time for the Decocrats that are "in" to pick up the gauntlet; 'fess up to mistakes if necessary; then, lead the way out of the bungled mess over there.

Chuck Hagel still says it most concisely and directly. "Stay the course is not a strategy".

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

My Personal Healthcare Cost Saga

While on vacation July 5th in Virginia Beach , my youngest son fell from a piece of playground equipment and broke both bones in his right forearm. First I want to thank Virginia Beach General Hospital, Dr. Williamson, a great orthopedic trauma doc, the ambulance and EMT techs that responded, and most certainly my employer. All of the above performed in the most exemplary and professional manner I could ever hope for or imagine. My son, Isacc, is almost fully recovered. His cast came off last week and he is a third of the way through his three week "sling" period.

Then came the medical bills. This is not going to be a sob story about how I got shafted. Quite the contrary, as my gratitude, expressed above, may indicate, my employer provides generous medical benefits. They came through for me with flying colors. My company is self-insured and the coverage is administered by one of the best known providers of such services in the industry.

But those bills! I will describe the hospital charges as the prime (largest) example, but the bills for the other services were handled in a similar manner. Isaac's hospital stay was roughly 20 hours from about 5pm on Tuesday to about 1pm on Wednesday. The stay included emergency room, X-ray services, an operating room since the arm was set, mercifully, under general anesthesia, recovery room, and patient bed for the night (morning, really). The bill was a little over $7300. Ouch, but not unexpected. I made a mental note that with deductible and coinsurance I was looking at a $1000 share of the total cost , but what followed was really unexpected - at least as a matter of degree.

I know these bills are negotiated downward by the insurance companies, but when I recieved the final bill from the hospital the insurance adjustment was over $5400! My employer and I were now being asked for just 26% of the original invoiced charges. Whoa! Needless to say I can hardly wait to write the check for my share of that after what I was prepared to pay.

I am grateful.

I also feel guilt-fed anger. What I realize is a Wal-mart part-time employee without benefits experiencing a similar situation could easily spend years paying off what ultimately amounted to nearly $10,000 in initial charges. A laborer in our booming residential construction industry could lose their car, their credit, or worse if suddenly facing such a large debt. What else I realize is I am a pink slip and a few months continuing benefits away from being just like them.

Unemployed and/or uninsured I could have been liable for 40 times the money I am paying now.

All I can think is something has to be WRONG with this situation! My whole life I have heard we live in the U.S.of A., the richest country in the world.

How can that be when so many must give so much for something so essential? And but for the grace of God...

Monday, August 22, 2005

Binary Bush Attacks New Straw Man

George is attacking another straw man-in-the-mirror. Maybe every issue and decision is binary to GeeDub because he can only keep two things in his mind at once.

In his Utah rally 'round the war talk today, Bush said the alternative to staying the course in Iraq would be the "retreat and isolation" policy voiced by, by,...well, by Bush I guess. I haven't heard anyone else propose it. But then, no one other than the Karl Rovian du jour has voiced a "cut and run" policy either.

We need a pack of flying monkeys to take these straw folks apart politically, and their mirror images as well.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Hagel Like a Bad Democrat

Chuck Hagel sounded for all the world like one of the Democrats the right side of the media likes to rail against in his appearance today on This Week. He made good sense about why he thinks Iraq is a mess, but offered little in terms of an alternative strategy.

He reiterated his "we're not winning position", but when asked directly about a strategy to get out he mumbled general phrases about six months, elections, police, Iraqi military without any concrete suggestions.

George Allen sounded more eloquent, without expressing an original thought, by just spouting administration mantras on standing up Iraqis and Iraq being the central front, etc.

I think the country needs a voice like Hagel's on the inside of the Republican regime, but he needs to do a better job of thinking through his position or do a better job of articulating it.

Feingold Hits My Bull' s Eye

Russ Feingold made a great point on Meet the Press today that was so logical it left me feeling numbly dumb.

He really put the lie to one of the administration's favorite mantras of late. The one that says we can't set a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq or the insurgents would simply wait until we leave and take over.

If that's the case, says Feingold, why don't they just quit fighting right now and wait for us to leave, then take over?

Kind of highlights the fault in the talking point's faulty logic, doesn't it.

Made me go duh, doh, and well...yeah.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Embracing Complexity and Ambivalence

My latest look in Johari's window revealed a couple of things to me about me. Fiscally, economically, and in terms of foreign policy views I am solidly, though only slightly, left of center. Socially I tend towards the far left. I come up short only in that I'm not a fan of in-your-face displays of individual lifestyle choices. Live and let live, for me, does not include the flaunting of differences for the sake of provoking response (offense?).

All that is the long way of saying I have to periodically take stock of my views and positions. They change. I don't think it's because I'm wishy-washy, or that I'm somehow deficient of moral clarity. I think it is because my education continues. I read. I observe. As Paul (Saul) of Taursus suggests in his letter to the Romans (I think), I test everything, and try to keep what's good.

As a consequence of being open, I see shades of gray everywhere. I don't think that means there are no absolutes. Gray cannot exist without black and white, can it? It does mean that I don't have to be certain in order to trust my perceptions and conclusions. It also means I can be wrong and adjust to what I've learned from my error.

But enough about me. This stream of thought came from a reference by amba at AmivaBlog that led me to Radical Middle where Mark Satin, whose words title this piece, turned me on to Robert Karen and Terrence Real. What they're writing about is where this all started so read Mark's piece.

Gray is beautiful.

Monday, August 15, 2005

In & Out of Net(s)

Work has me on the road this week (Chicago), so I'll only be intermittently wired and/or wireless.

I'll probably miss you more than you'll miss me.'

Ciao, for now.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Cutting our Losses; Not Cutting and Running

I looked and commented on posts at both TPMCafe and ChargingRINO before coming across a heavyweight voice on my side of the get-out-of Iraq-now argument.

I took offense at Gee Dubya's remark yesterday that we can't leave because it would signal the bad guys "all we've got to do is intimidate and they'll leave."

First, if all they were doing was intimidating I would not have a huge issue. They are killing. To me, that's at least one giant step beyond intimidation.

Second, I think it is just as likely that the insurgent-terrorists are thinking "all we've got to do is keep killing a few Americans a week, and they'll keep sending more for us to kill - indefinitely." I think it's more than plausible because it seems a whole generation of jihadists, minted just for the purpose, are making their bones at our expense.

I think it is time to start a staged withdrawal based on the political timetable already in place. Once and for all, we'll know what the Iraqi people really want their country to be. I don't think cutting our losses is the same thing as cutting and running at this point.

But all that's just me. Read what Ronald Reagan's head of the National Security Agency, William E. Odom, has to say about it, here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Intelligent Discussion of Intelligent Design

Robert Vanasse's op-ed is the most clear and concise discussion of the great evolution/ID/creationism controversy I've read to date.

It speaks for itself right here.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

White House Indicates Americans Hysterical

Dan Bartlett responded to David Gregory's question (Hardball) about two-thirds of Americans thinking the Iraq war/insurgency/struggle had made us less safe more directly than I expected.

Instead of misdirecting to the usual global war/insurgency/struggle talking points, Dan insisted, twice, that Americans merely found the recent spike in Americans killed in Iraq unsettling. Unsettling, unsettling...let me think...oh-oh-oh, I get it now. We're hysterical!

As a group, over sixty percent of the American population is unsettled by some kind of temporary misfortune mistaking their moodiness as actual bad news. He went on to insist the President had repeatedly explained in Social-Security-crisis detail just how well things were really going over there.

David! Oh my Gawd! How can you let it pass and sleep? Really.

Discovery's Safe - Whew!

I let out a deep sigh of relief when the shuttle touched down this morning; though, I was briefly surprised at the degree to which I had been concerned.

Then it occurred to me I had felt much the same way the other day when I heard the Russian rescue submarine had been freed from the ocean floor.

I think in both cases I was conscious on some level that my fellow human beings were out, or down, there on the edge of the survival envelope, and I cared. Seems like we (I) could do more to exploit this reflexive empathy for each other. Hmmm...

Monday, August 08, 2005

Healthcare Woes Hitting (My) Home

We moved my mother-in-law in with us a week ago yesterday. The plan was for her to move in temporarily in a couple of weeks, but that plan went quickly astray.

It was a 10 PM trip to extract her from the bed where, we had just learned, she had been for going on three days except for excruciatingly painful hobbles to the bathroom. See both her knees are shot, and she has had to wait to afford the replacement surgery she needs. She had to wait to save enough from her part-time door greeter job - yes, at Wally World - to buy private health insurance, and then wait out a waiting period for the benefits she needed to be covered by her policy.

While she was waiting, what was left of her left knee joint wasted away. The final deterioration had occurred literally overnight. Now when she moves her left leg she gets a jolt of needless bone-on-bone agony.

I say needless because she was told over two years ago she needed the surgery, but she had no means to pay for it. She is 67 years old and the widow of a veteran of two wars, WWII and Korea. She had enough income from his Social Security and her part-time paycheck to subsist, but only just subsist. She wasn't eligible for Medicaid or TennCare as we call in the Volunteer State because she was self-reliant and wouldn't just quit and throw herself on the mercy of the state.

She could well have died at home alone unable to move with a known and correctable condition. We were in a position to take her in and help her make it just by chance and proximity. She is scheduled for the first of her two planned knee replacements in two weeks. We are hopeful she will be able to walk pain free again someday.

I can't help but feel angry over the pain she has felt for the last two years, and the agony she is in today.

She deserves better from this society, as do millions of others.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

This Truth Hurts Worse Than Roses

I think it was Oscar Wilde that said something to the effect that there are two things in life one has to be careful with, the truth and roses.

Well, over at The Poor Man Cafe you'll find a distinct, and overdue, lack of care with some thornful facts.

Be prepared to really read because this one is really written. MUST READ!

This One Made Me Go, "Hmmmm..."

I found a lot of food for thought in Amba's piece on Generation Liberaton at Ambivablog. I had never thought about age grading and how it could impact relationships over a lifetime, and it really has my wheels turning. Not going anywhere yet, but definitely turning. First I'll share a slice, then a thought.
For thousands of years of human history-- and in many parts of the world today-- children were raised in the meaning-rich context of family and community. They interacted constantly with children of various ages, and spent much of their time apprenticing to meaningful tasks alongside their parents, other adults, and older children. They were often responsible for the care of younger siblings. . . .

Industrialization, however, by removing work from the community, pushed children into schools where they interacted more exclusively with their same-age peers, and often apprenticed to abstract tasks instead of practical ones. And the bonds of family and community began to fray:
That's the slice; here's the thought. My wife and I have a modular family of eight children. It includes a wide ranging constellation of ages from 7 to 27. The youngest three are separated by two gaps of 6 years each. The fighting and rivalry are worse with this disparity of age than they ever were with the older siblings born closer together.

The wheels are still turning about what this may, or may not, have to do with "age grading", but I really am going, "hmmmm..."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Science of Creationism?

Kevin Drum and Atrios do a great job of expressing the wry amusement I feel over Bush's willingness to see intelligent design taught alongside evolution in public school science classes. I won't try to top their research and commentary - check it out.

The amusement in my case, though, conceals a cold clutching fear in the pit of my stomach.

Emotion aside, what are the scientific aspects of creationism that would be taught? Would there be any pretense of applying actual science scholarship to its presentation?

More likely it just opens the barn door for abuse by faith driven proseletizers.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

"Quick - The Antidote!"

Whoa! I’m heavy on the negative vibes today. From depressed to disgusted in two short posts…gotta…get…some…good…news.

Never mind.

MLB, Palmeiro, Bush - Disgusting

The level of my disgust with Major League Baseball can only be explained by the depth of my former love of the game.

I once shattered a light fixture above my parents’ bed jumping for joy over a Henry Aaron grand slam. I’m still certain it was against the Astros even though the final score, and any significance of the game in the standings, is long forgotten. I really was a Braves’ fan “even through the rotten years”. I loved the game for all the poetic and intangible reasons Ken Burns and Bob Costas have spelled out for posterity.

Now it disgusts me. Not baseball, but the MLB brand of athletes, leagues, and owners all disgust me.

Rafael Palmeiro and his defense by no less than the President of the United States disgust me. Raffy is a cheat and Bush is a blindly loyal fool (proof of which this is only the latest example).


Bye-Bye, Blue, Blue Monday

Not only was Monday the day Dubya chose to shove John Bolton down the throat of the U.S. Senate and the world, but my beloved home state of Tennessee chose it to cut 200,000 from its health care rolls.

Judy's "wacky-assed piece"

James Moore over at The Huffington Post did what I would call the definitive "Judy" story, at least to this point.

He exhaustively details the specifics of why Ms. Miller should be no one's hero. You'll have to read it to see why even one of her Times colleagues has described her work as "wacky-assed".