Saturday, March 31, 2012

31 March 2012 Athletes are really students, just ask Orwell

“Orwell and March Madness”
Published: March 30, 2012

            “If you’ve been watching the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball championship — a k a March Madness — you’ve undoubtedly seen the commercial. It’s an N.C.A.A. ad that shows college athletes pumping iron, running sprints and playing games. The voice-over, though, talks not about athletic achievement but academic accomplishment. “African-American males who are student-athletes are 10 percent more likely to graduate,” says the narrator. As the ad concludes, a female athlete looks into the camera and says, “Still think we’re just a bunch of dumb jocks?”…
            “It was amusing this week to watch Emmert trot out “the collegiate model” as he was confronted with the reality of the “one and done” freshman. “One and done” freshmen — or players who have no interest in college and are enrolling only until they turn 19 and become eligible for the professional draft — have been a hot topic in the runup to this weekend’s Final Four. That’s because John Calipari, the Kentucky coach, has become the master of recruiting them — and his team is favored to win the championship. Calipari is completely upfront about what he is doing: He is gaming the system by bringing in players who need a way station until they are old enough to turn pro. Indeed, Calipari tells them when he is recruiting them that he doesn’t expect them to stay for more than a year.
            “In his great novel about totalitarianism, “1984,” George Orwell described the three slogans of The Party: War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Ignorance Is Strength.
            “The N.C.A.A. has its own equivalents. Athletes Are Students. College Sports Is Not About Money. Graduation Is The Goal.
            “Enjoy the Final Four.
Cassi Creek:
          I admit to a lack of interest in basketball and football exceeded only by my lack of interest in NASCAR.  At least, the NASCAR drivers make no pretence of being “amateurs” and don’t masquerade as “students” while training at public expense to become recruits in franchises owned by billionaires.  So it seems there is a measure of honesty to the act of driving in endless left turns that is not present in those “games” involving a ball of some shape. 
          The concept of the student athlete honed on the playing fields of Eaton and other British institutes of academe is not matched by the reality of the American “student athlete.”  The entire NCAA scheme is designed to control the concept that is fed to the public; leading that public to believe that a difference exists between American “athletes” and gladiators of the Roman Empire games. 
          Our public, willing to believe that the modern-day gladiators might actually exhibit loyalty to the school or franchise that pays them; is particularly willing to believe a message of sponsorship delivered by a pneumatically enhanced female in scant attire, proffering beer and/or junk food.  Orwell knew that the message was of less importance than the messenger. 


          Yesterday heralded the beginning of tick and mosquito season.  I felt one of the nasty little parasites crawling on the back of my neck, looking for a place to attach.  Last season was rather diminished in nature due to the intensely cold winter that preceded it.  The past winter 2011-2012, being much milder in temperature, predisposes to a much greater population of biting insects. 
          Ex-Officio offers a line of “bug-away” clothing.  I have used it before with a lot of success.  We’ll use it again this year.

Friday, March 30, 2012

30 March 2012 Which horn to hope for

A stronger prescription for what ails health care
By Eugene RobinsonPublished: March 29
“In arguments before the Supreme Court this week, the Obama administration might have done just enough to keep the Affordable Care Act from being ruled unconstitutional. Those who believe in limited government had better hope so, at least.          “
            “If Obamacare is struck down, the short-term implications are uncertain. Conservatives may be buoyed by an election-year victory; progressives may be energized by a ruling that looks more political than substantive. The long-term consequences, however, are obvious: Sooner or later, a much more far-reaching overhaul of the health-care system will be inevitable…”
            “…Our only choice is to try to hold the costs down. President Obama tried to make a start with a modest approach that works through the current system. If this doesn’t pass constitutional muster, the obvious alternative is to emulate other industrialized nations that deliver equal or better health-care outcomes for half the cost.
I’m talking about a single-payer health-care system. If the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare, a single-payer system will go from being politically impossible to being, in the long run, fiscally inevitable.
Cassi Creek:
          We’ve reached the point where the decision will be made.  Constitutional or non-Constitutional, The SCOTUS is slated to tell us in June of this year.  It is guaranteed that the presidential election will be impacted by the court’s decision.   The 2000 election keeps coming to mind, when an election was decided by what was a stacked court that has now become even more stacked.  
          If the Court decides against the Affordable Care Act, there is bound to be a huge up-roar as the positive benefits of the law as currently in place are rapidly withdrawn from insured citizens by the insurance companies that opposed those benefits from the start for the dent they once left in corporate profits.
          Failure to confirm the ACA would leave a huge pool of angry voters willing to let the GOP taste their anger in November.  They will rightfully blame the teavangelists and the GOP main-line incumbents for their sudden loss of those benefits.  The Democrats, having done little to focus the blame where it belongs for the last three years, will be in a good position if they can only begin to act like legislators concerned for the most good to the nation rather than as pawns of the insurance industry. 
          The Democrats had a back-up, single-payer, universal Medicare for all citizens.  The GOP\teavangelists have no replacement for ACA and no backup plan.  The eventual outcome will be a single payer tax-supported health plan similar to Canada’s, France’s, or dozens of other industrialized nations. 
          I find myself torn.  Rejection and overturn of ACA will result in loss of insurance, bankruptcy, and even loss of life.   All of this can and should be heaped on the GOP in November.  Then, after a period of chaos, the Congress will reluctantly do what should have been done previously; institute a national single payer insurance plan.  At some point, we will wisely realize that the way to budget cuts is to boot the health insurance companies from the control and profits they now exercise. 
          On the other hand, if ACA is not overturned we will slowly and with great interference from the teavangelists, finalize those portions of ACA not yet in effect.  We will not move toward single-payer national health insurance, and the insurance companies will remain in the revenue stream they now enjoy.
          We need to get rid of for-profit health care.  If physicians opt out, too bad.  The really good ones will remain in practice.  We need to establish single payer national health care supported by universal taxation. 
          Which way will the SCOTUS go?  Which way do I hope they go?  I can’t honestly say this morning. 

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

29 March 2012 Get sick, don’t bother the GOP

          Forbes reviews the Romney-Leno appearance last night.  Romney has no plan to replace the affordable care act beyond ignoring the poor, beyond ignoring those who put off buying insurance until they became ill, beyond blaming Obama for the mess the GOP\teavangelists have made of every attempt to reform health care. 
          Forbes acknowledges that the mandate to purchase individual policies is necessary if the U.S. citizens wish to retain the good policies and practices already in place thanks to the ACA.  For those good practices to continue, all of us must be in the pool of insured. 
          Sound like socialism to you?  Too bad.   If you want to continue driving on public highways, eating and drinking safe foods and water, sending your kids to public schools; then wake up and realize that the way we pay for those things is by taxing everyone for the privileges that we take for granted.  Socialism?   European socialism?  Hell yes! 
          Romney and the rest of the candidates are too young to remember what it was like before Medicare.  The great lie they advance is that doctors provided charitable care and that the community coughed up for those who were too poor to pay. 
          This argument ignores the advances in health care that have taken place since LBJ signed off on Medicare.  Most of the diagnostic procedures we take for granted today didn’t exist or were simply not available in doctors’ offices. 
          Community charity rarely extended beyond a carried in casserole and a pauper’s grave.  I know this because I was already working, running the precursors of the high-level diagnostics we take for granted today.  What we consider necessary diagnostics today was all-too-often still science fiction. 
          Romney spilled the beans last night.  The teavangelists have no plan B to wheel in if the SCOTUS overturns the ACA.  The health care mantra is going to change.  “We’re the Tea-Party, we want our Medicare back.”  They were warned to be careful about what they wished for.  Feel free to lay the blame at their feet.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

28 March 2012 It makes me proud to be from…

          Fill in the blank for the town, city, county, state, region, nation of choice. 
Corporations Wrote a Law Requiring Climate Denial be Taught in School. Tennessee Just Passed It.
…“One such model bill has just passed the Tennessee state legislature, and this one mandates that schools teach climate science as a theory alongside other 'credible' theories—like those ones preferred by fossil fuels companies, for example, that hold that global warming is caused by solar cycles and other nonsense. Sound familiar? This is the same structural tactic employed by creationists to try to discourage the teaching of evolution in schools…”

Cassi Creek: 
                The people we elect to govern us should be of somewhat higher intellect than the average citizen.  They should understand that the term “Theory” does not signify unproven or questionable in nature.  Thus, the theories of evolution and of human mediated global climate change are demonstrable truths.  Plants and animals do evolve, proving Darwin correct.  The rise in mean high tide due to decreased polar icecaps is also demonstrable. 
                The local elected leaders in Tennessee have all deliberated about how to assure that the state’s children are to receive an education that takes note of the “possibility” that climate change and evolution might possibly be real and demonstrable.  Such scientific subjects, even if real, do not agree with what appears to be the textbook of absolute authority – that confusion of allegories, genealogies, and myths concerning creation, global disaster, and imaginary heroes and dreamers that Christians believe instead of science based information. 
                In their collective wisdom, the good Christians in Nashville have decided that if students are to be burdened with pagan-derived science, they must also be fed the myths that have generated Christian dogma. 
                I vaguely recall a trial about teaching evolution that resulted in Tennessee becoming a target of derision among educated people not living in what are now called “red states.”  Not to be outdone by their predecessors, the current generation of legislators has not only challenged evolution but also the disciplines of geology, meteorology, climatology. In addition, various schools of physics, chemistry, biology, and genetics have been flagged as being tools of Pagans, atheists, socialists, and “liberals.”
                Since we’ve been committed by our elected officials to teach children that myths are as valid as science, we may as well tell them to commit fully to teaching folly.  It is time to include education blocks about Santa Claus, Easter bunnies, tooth fairies, and all manner of fictional creatures. 
                We can revel in our collective ignorance much as does contiguous Kentucky with its creation museum depicting the co-existence of man and dinosaur, or the follow-on life-sized ark museum complete with animal pairs.   
                We’ve already created such a low quality education in the red states that a few more laws such as the one linked above can’t further damage the level of education being demanded by Christians in control of education.  I can’t imagine anyone being content to have their children taught such drivel in public schools.  Perhaps the parents in the red states can’t imagine their spawn competing with people educated in the real world.  Perhaps they’ve had so much religious mythology hammered into them by our Taliban that reality has become whatever myth they heard repeated last. 
                One thing is for certain.  I’m not proud of Tennessee public schools or Tennessee schools products.  If, unlike me, you plan on the good fairy or some mythical angel swooping in to set it all aright with a sweep of its slide-rule, clap your hands.
                Oh, wait!  That’s Disney Land where magical thinking is based upon science.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

27 March 2012 Humana practices bait and switch denies medication

          Type II diabetes is epidemic in the United States.  Treated effectively, a patient can live a long and productive life.  Treated inadequately it can result in shortened lifespan with sequelae that limit the quality of life markedly.
          Controlling weight gain by means of diet, exercise, and medication is a primary goal that every doctor sets for diabetic patients.  This can be difficult to achieve as the genes that predispose to diabetes also predispose to obesity.  Further, some anti-glycemic medications and even some anti-lipid medications seem to make weight control difficult. 
          Gloria has always followed such a strict diet that her Hgb A1C, marking the average level of that particular Hgb for the previous 3 months, has always fallen into the reference range for non-diabetics.  Yet her other medications have caused her to struggle to lose weight and to maintain that loss. 
          Therefore, her physician chose to put her on Victoza to see if that would help her lose weight.  Humana denied the drug, claiming that weight loss was not an adequate reason to prescribe the drug. 
          This is the same corporation that denies receiving any of the three appeals for coverage of Victoza, which her physician’s office has submitted via fax. 
          Humana’s corporate bureaucrats are directly interfering with decisions concerning treatment of patients by physicians.  This is being done in order to maximize profits while denying patients access to the medications their physicians prescribe. 
          Another gleaming example of the lie that United States health care is among the best in the world because it is market driven. 

For bait and switch, see 26 March 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

26 March 2012 Humana plays bait and switch with seniors.

 26 March 2012  Humana plays bait and switch with seniors.
          Humana, the health insurance company that spends millions of dollars in advertising designed to scare Medicare recipients into fearing they will lose health care benefits, is guilty of denying Medicare recipients the benefits they were promised.
          The threat brandished by Humana to convince seniors to sign up with its Medicare Advantage program is the classic claim that “government bureaucrats will determine who gets the treatment and medications prescribed by the patient’s doctor.”  In fact, once the patients have signed with Humana, it is a network of corporate bureaucrats who allow or deny the medications and treatments prescribed by physicians. 
          Case in point:
          Last July Gloria was prescribed a new medication, “Victoza,” to enable her to maintain blood glucose levels and to lose weight as a means toward more effective treatment of type II diabetes.  Her Medicare Part D carrier, at the time United Health Care, required her to undergo a trial with other, less expensive medication prior to approving the prescription for Victoza.  She did not tolerate the substitute medication and it did not provide adequate control of her blood glucose levels.  After this was documented, she was finally approved to receive Victoza.  She used the drug successfully.
          In an attempt to reduce out of pocket medicine expenses, she signed with Human.  She was promised by the agent who enrolled her that her Victoza would be covered with no break in service. 
          Since February, she has been trying to have her prescription renewed.  Humana keeps denying it.  She has had her doctor’s office appeal the denial multiple times.  Humana denies receiving the appeals.  She has been told by letter from Humana that they tried three times to contact her by phone on a day when both of us were here all day.  Humana has instructed her to call specified numbers, which she has called repeatedly for 6 days now with no return calls. 
          Last week she was told that the medication was approved by a Humana employee who seemed reluctant to tell her that it was approved.  Today she has spent most of four hours on the phone being shunted from non-helpful desk to openly obfuscating desk. 
          Tell me, GOP and teavangelists, why I should bear government workers denying benefits.  The private sector seems quite capable of doing it in order to increase corporate profits. 
          GOP health plan – get sick and die quick

Sunday, March 25, 2012

25 March 2012 Read his book

A war hero returns home, 40 years later
By John Blake, CNN
updated 12:38 AM EDT, Sun March 25, 2012

-- Karl Marlantes stared at the young man through the sights of an M-16 rifle and slid his muddy finger over the curve of the trigger.
Turning toward him, the man locked eyes with Marlantes and froze.
"Don't throw it. Don't throw it," Marlantes whispered, hoping the man would surrender...”

Cassi Creek:
            I haven’t read either of his books.  I may eventually find them and read them.  However, I don’t need to read them to know what he has written in order to know its merits and its predictions. 
            The author is of my generation, as am I, a member of “the club.”  We’ve suppressed the memories and flashbacks that go along with membership’s other dues.  We’ve made every attempt at living the life we believed we could live.  We’ve lived through a bad marriage and a divorce.  We’ve suffered the long-term effects of adrenaline addiction that is born in battle. 
            Like the author, I know the surprise of eject yet another small piece of shrapnel when we thought there was none left to extrude.  And like the author, I’ve found help for PTSD.  I understand it will be with me always.  So will it be with everyone who is afflicted with it.  It will shape who we are, who our offspring are, and who we want to be. 
            What this book offers is not only some of the same tales other veterans have already told, or that I’ve related, but also a new perspective that may help another veteran learn to deal with it.  Each of us has our own set of experiences, our own war.  Collectively we define PTSD but we deal with it and treat it separately.
            So if you know a veteran of any war who may be trying to defeat his or her particular box of demons, point him to the book.  Watch out, if you do.  These books can trigger a lot of repressed and suppressed memory.  It may be a rough ride over the reefs of ugly memories before they can find a safe anchorage and a place to peel off the armor they still wear.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

24 March 2012 “They tell me that the fault line runs right through here”

The U.S. military doesn’t know who is fit to fight
            “. Psychologists can’t always immediately identify a private’s ability to cope with training and combat. There are no good tools to discern predisposition to emotional stress or assess for a history of concussions.
            “Soldiers fight a battalion of stresses: life-or-death missions, colleagues killed or badly injured, chronic aches from carrying heavy loads, disturbed sleep patterns, and exposure to foreign toxins, and explosions that shake the body and the brain. No tests adequately account for every issue. Questionnaires can’t distinguish between medical problems caused by IEDs, shock, drug and alcohol abuse, or diseases that affect thinking and behavior. Using surveys to evaluate men and women before and after their service doesn’t offer a clear picture of the whole person or of the circumstances leading to their injury…”
Cassi Creek:
          Words for the day are from the pen of Mama Cass Elliot:
I heard they exploded the
underground blast
They say it’s gonna happen -
gonna happen at last
That's the way it appears
They tell me the fault line runs
right through here…”
          This song referred to the potential risk that underground nuclear testing and geological detection and mapping by smaller blasts might somehow trigger a massive slippage along the San Andreas Fault.  Underground testing was terminated before that concern could be proven or disproven.  Modern practices still raise concerns that “fracking” may cause smaller slips and that it will damage wells and the water table. 
          VietNam was the war of Cass Elliot’s day.  It was also mine. 
          It isn’t that far a stretch to compare a fault line slippage to the mental slippage that happens to men and women affected by the continual insults of PTSD.  Many people who volunteer for the armed forces later find jobs in fields of endeavor that are also highly stressful in nature.  MP’s leave the service to become Cops.  Nurses leave military medicine for emergency medicine.  I left service as a line medic/medical corpsman to wind up in clinical lab.  On the journey from A > B I worked in OR, recovery, ICU, and kept the tension levels high. 
          Like other veterans, I was reluctant to admit that the things I saw and did bothered me upon returning to civilian life.  The ability to internalize such physical and mental trauma is, in many ways, more harmful than the trauma itself.  All soldiers should be considered injured after a combat tour.  Those who lose friends, and those who sustain injuries are even more at need of treatment. 
          When we get back to the world we left from the world we’ve adapted to, we’re right over that fault line between combat and the civilian world.  Sooner or later, it’s going to slip.  How large the slip depends upon how returning troops are brought back into this world.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

23 March 2012 Like waves rolling onto the shoreline

          The forecast calls for rain.  The radar shows a line of small, as of yet, thunderstorms stacking up and rolling in from the southwest to the northeast.  It will rain, here, today!
          Unfortunately, the lawn needs to be mowed.  There’s trimming to be done, and I didn’t get my shoulders injected Tuesday because VA adjusted the schedule.  Handling a gasoline-powered string trimmer is going to be q whole lot of fun.
          The rain has reached Morristown and Knoxville on its steady march toward our location.  The cells are lining up like boxcars in a train yard.  When I finally decided to race the rain, I had already lost the race.  Tomorrow may present a better chance.  I’ll have to make the attempt much earlier in the day. 
          If the mower battery has held a charge I’ll be happy to hear it crank over.  If not I can hopefully jump it from the Pathfinder.  Jumper cables and batteries are a combination I prefer to avoid. 
          I’ll also have to start the soup base early tomorrow.  We’ll be dining on Bouillabaisse tomorrow evening and discussing local and national politics as well as the inanities and insanities of modern civilization.  I haven’t done a bouillabaisse in almost 7 years.  It is an expensive dish no matter how one makes it. 
          Tonight’s dinner is more of an uncertainty.  However, some sort of sustenance will pass our parted lips.  That can be counted upon.
Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

22 March 2012 Targets of opportunity

          I grew up in suburbs and in small cities.  There were other houses in all directions.  There were no firearms in the house other than a battered and badly mis-used 32-20 revolver that was apparently intended for home defense. 
          My favorite uncle was a hunter.  He owned several long guns that were supposed to be given to me but which never completed that journey. 
          Lacking any regular contact with shooting sports, my first real chance to handle and use guns came when I joined Boy Scouts.  That first summer camp experience included a chance to earn the marksmanship merit badge.  Included in that opportunity to learn to shoot at targets was a mandatory NRA hunter safety program. 
          We were required to learn how to transport firearms to the field, how to cross fences safely with firearms, and how to maintain the firearms.  Most of all we were taught the necessity of treating guns like the weapons they are rather than as toys.  There was a written exam.  Passing it was required before being allowed on the firing range.  Passing also brought one a certificate and a yellow patch with black lettering declaring that I had taken the NRA hunter-safety course.  I still have the patch.
          The hunter-safety program well designed and was, of course, a plug for the NRA in its most benign configuration.  No one should be allowed to own guns without knowing how to use, store, and maintain them safely.  The course also became a requirement in several states for those wanting to obtain a hunting license.  There was a cut-off age that waived the course for older applicants, mostly only slightly younger than I am.  It was pegged to the decreasing population of rural Americans and the downturn in hunting to feed families. 
          Most of all, the course was just an educational program.  There were no slides or graphics of flags in the wind, no Minute Men statues or re-enactors.  It was not recruitment propaganda.  It stressed hunter-safety, not firearms hoarding, Best of all, it worked as an educational program filling a role in the changing social and cultural soup that was post WWII America.
          Fast forward to the year 2012.  The NRA has reacted to the continuing changes in America by becoming the champion of gun hoarders, right wing nuts, religious militias, and dozens of other causes and insanities that might just somehow tie into the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution if interpreted by someone with no real acquaintance with history.  Today’s NRA can be found paying millions of dollars to legislators in exchange for votes on bulls that should never become laws.  They support all manner of efforts to avoid regulating the sale of firearms, so that realistic tracking and registration of firearms becomes highly difficult.  They link the sale of firearms to patriotism and even to religion, using highly emotional symbolism in their advertisements and propaganda.  They disseminate frank lies claiming that all Democrats but especially Pres. Obama are going to use the ATF to confiscate all privately owned firearms in the nation.  They’ve been spreading this lie since the 1960s in order to encourage recruitment and renewal of memberships.  They play to conspiracy fears, encourage hoarding of ammunition and then claim shortages are due to government undercover actions.   Find a place in society that does not require firearms and the NRA is pushing to put them there. 
          The dogma is that we must protect the 2nd Amendment or we will be taken over by atheists, communists, socialists, and any other symbolic fear that can be used to alarm the easily alarmed and the ready rabble.  Supposedly private weapons ownership will prevent government tyranny in the U.S.  In the pre-civil war days when militias actually could possibly be mobilized to fight coastal piracy, disposed Indians, or bushwhackers and Jayhawkers, that might have some slight semblance of truth.  Today, the National Guard has absorbed the function of those militias and no private militia is capable of standing long against our legitimate armed forces or police forces. 
          I own weapons; I live where the occasional rabid skunk, raccoon, or feral dog or cat may happen by.  I also live where the random home invader may decide to try our home.  I can honestly recount one instance of invasion that was deterred when I answered the door with a sidearm and Loki. 
          However, I’m not afraid of potential confiscation by “them” or Obama.   I don’t need to have a full auto assault rifle or a machine gun.  In addition, I don’t harbor any desire to prove my masculinity by killing someone with a handgun.  I don’t need the NRA pumping up fears directed at blacks, Latinos, homeless folks, or anyone else who falls outside the current super-wasp image. 

          What I want from the NRA is for them to dial back the fear mongers and the BS about confiscation of guns, to quit using our national symbols to support lies about immigrants and others who are being targeted because they differ from the guns, god, and antigay package.
          What I want from the NRA is for it to return to teaching gun safety to hunters and others who practice shooting sports.  Having to furnish proof of such training before being able to buy a gun won’t stop idiots with too much money, too much fear, and too many guns from killing innocent people.  But it sure as hell might help reduce the number of idiots who think that a firearm documents their masculinity. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

21 March 2012 Johann Sebastian and me

          This is a truly amazing piece of music that I feel to be timeless.  In some aspects, this was as improvisational as a Grateful Dead performance.  From Tocatta and Fugue to Rhapsody in Blue, Bach found the first pathway to the works of countless other composers and musician who might otherwise never found it possible to vary from the old forms.

          I am 64 today.  The day began well and I see no reason for that to change.  There were congratulatory calls from my mother and Shea and Brigitte, many on-line wishes for a memorable day, all following a huge, beautiful smile from Gloria. 
          I must admit that when the Beatles first sang, “When I’m 64.” I never envisioned myself reaching this age.  To be honest, the odds were against it.  I had to survive a war, tobacco addiction, and PTSD. 
          With that behind me as far as it can be, I’m doing what I can to keep the odds in my favor now.  At 64, I feed us most of the time. Gloria provides some excellent dishes when she is the cook for the day. 
          Today is sunny, noon temperature has recorded as 76°F and will go higher before thunderstorms or sunset cools us down.  The air is filled with wasps looking for nesting sites.  Huge bumblebees and carpenter bees buzz benignly around the deck.  The squirrels are keeping Loki occupied as she guards the bird feeders. 
          Gloria’s expecting the hummingbird migration any day now.  I need to mow and trim this week.  The season has decidedly changed from winter to full-on spring.  I am happy that the OT review showed improvement in grip and dexterity. I don’t expect miracles.  However, I’m happy that this latest series of VA workups may have some benefits beyond getting my meds reviewed.
          I’m 64 today.  I woke up happy; I’ll go to sleep happy!  That’s a lot to be grateful for.  Thanks, Gloria!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

20 March 2012 Spring hopes infernal…

          Tapping a large and ever increasing list of Spoonerisms, Malapropisms, Freudian slips, and just plain verbal short circuits and overloads offers all manner of malformed and misdirected overshots and short-rounds.
          Garbled language can be harmless or it can be serious enough to wreck one’s chances of obtaining the particular goal they are seeking.  George W. Bush was notorious for linguistically booby trapping himself.  JFK, intending to declare solidarity with the citizens of West Berlin, proclaimed his self a jelly doughnut.  For reasons apparent at the time, Bush had his grammar handed to him in a hat; while Kennedy drew a pass and was regarded as an excellent orator. 
          I had a close encounter with a helicopter yesterday afternoon.  As I pulled into a parking lot across the road from a hospital heliport, a medevac airship pulled up and went into a brief hover directly over us.  I knew what it was but couldn’t visually acquire it and didn’t want to drive into its potential landing zone if it pulled up short or lost power.  It was hot and humid yesterday and those factors in combination with altitude do odd things to helicopters.  I had a brief view back in time to seeing people carelessly walk into rotor blades.   It’s much messier than you might think and happens in just a blink of stupidity and/or lost concentration. 
          Once I got a visual fix on the chopper, the moment passed.  It has been a long time since I’ve found myself in the glide path or in the LZ of a helicopter.  Sound is a powerful memory initiator. 
          I have trouble with the current descriptor, “life flight” for medical helicopter transport flights.  I knew them as “medevac” or as “dust-off” flights. 

There’s a reason for the nickname.  There is a helicopter inside that dust cloud.

Monday, March 19, 2012

19 March 2012 All-volunteer about all-in

          The armed forces have been justifiably proud of meeting the demands of the civilians who determine military obligations, equipage, and budgets using only volunteers.  It makes the Admirals and Generals look good in review.  In turn, the politicians who control the funding can brag about reducing costs and wasted manpower.
          A nation of 300 million should be able to field an Army and Navy of sufficient size that repetitive combat tours by the same small, over-utilized forces would not be necessary.  We may be conducting these wars with an all-volunteer force.  But this nation has always reduced its standing forces to the bare bones between wars.  The need to ramp up the reserves has always been there and has always put us at grave risk. 
          As the nature of war changes so, will staffing needs.  The fact that most of the public neither recognizes nor uses in consideration of the need for military manpower is that it always requires troops on the ground in the enemy’s land mass to achieve even the most meager of victories. 
          We can’t conduct a war and expect any hope of victory using mercenaries.  While friends and financial backers of Congress may make billions fielding “contractors”, the U.S. is paying greatly inflated prices for men willing to fight for the highest bidder.  Those mercenaries may have American citizenship but they are not American patriots by any stretch of the imagination.  They’ve allowed the armed forces to train them, then mustered out and hustled to the commercial recruiters to put on a private army costume.
          No contractor, read that as mercenary, should be working for the U.S. government in any military matter.  The U.S. needs to realize that multiple tours in combat zones are not acceptable.  If manpower needs can’t be met without using troops like refundable bottles, then the nation needs either to end its involvement in that particular war, or it must bring back conscription. 
          It’s cheaper to use a minimally trained soldier to pull guard and other housekeeping duties than to hire mercenaries at multiples of what a private E-1 is paid. 
          If it is not important enough to bring back conscription, it is not important enough to be at war. 
          That would be a good national referendum this November.  I can pretty well predict the results.  They won’t be to my liking or to that of the DOD.  Americans have gotten used to following the behavior of their political leaders.  Men like Cheney, Gingrich, and Santorum are quite happy to vote for war and even happier to duck their obligation to take part in the war they helped bring about.  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

18 March 2012 Why is it called filthy lucre?

            A fairly constant string of dancers keep wandering past the gate, proffering paper currency to pass the gate.
            The bills come in fresh and crisp from the ATM or the bank. The new ones are sticky and must be handled carefully to keep them separate.  Others come in crumpled and near the end of their serviceable life as currency. 
            There is a surprising variation in how money is passed from hand-to-hand.  Most people who paid admission last night made some attempt at having the correct amount for admission.  The $5.00 member/student price was generally handed to me as a single $5.00 bill.  A smaller percentage needed change.  These folks usually offered their currency in the unfolded condition.  They received change in the same manner. 
            Others came with a pile of singles and handed them to me folded.  OCD is not yet common enough to cause them to align their bills in a stack with all bills having the same face upward.  Yet most places that take cash in payment teach their employees to separate and align bills in a cash box or register drawer.  Lessons learned are easily forgotten or, perhaps, ignored out of some need to rebel at the smallest opportunity. 
            Most annoying:
            Last night’s prize is awarded to the young woman who extended a closed fist and then turned it downward, dumping a tangled, lump of four intertwined bills with four quarters in the mix.  She made no apology for the tangle.  The bills were damp, torn, and generally unpleasant to pick up and separate.  Once the bills left her hand, she rushed away as if offended at being asked to pay.  She wasn’t carrying a purse of any sort. I have no idea where that money had been prior to arriving at the dance. It left me recalling what I know of viral and bacterial transmission by fomites.  Good hand-washing skills pay off.  There’s a reason clinical lab folks wash their hands about 200 times a day.
            You should too!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

17 March 2012 You can lead a man to pizza and still render him sterile

          According to CNN, the male gender will surrender its imperative to procreate for pizza.  A Cape Cod urology practice is offering a free pizza to any patient scheduling a vasectomy during the month of March.  They seem to be suggesting that the obsession with televised basketball will over-ride any romance that might surface for most males; so why not celebrate with surgery and pizza. 
          Napoleon famously credited logistics with winning wars.   Apparently logistics my also prevent procreation.  This sets the bar to a new low.  Of all the valid reasons for having a vasectomy, obtaining a “free” pizza never entered the arena. 
          Thunderstorms entered the region about 2000 hours last night and remained until about 2300 hours.  The forecast for this evening includes a 50% probability of thunderstorms with high temperature expected to reach79°F. 
          Overlooked fact of the day:  In 1804, Jim Bridger was born in Richmond VA. 
          At the age of 17, the apprenticed blacksmith signed on with the Ashley-Henry expedition, leaving St. Louis to trap for beaver pelts.  He had the good fortune to be present at many turning points in the American fur trade.  He eventually became a part owner in the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, competing with the Hudson’s Bay Company and the American Fur Company for the rapidly dwindling supply of beaver pelts.   His decision to quit trapping in order to establish Fort Bridger on the Green River to accommodate immigrant wagon trains on the Oregon Trail signaled the demise of beaver trapping in the American west. 
          Bridger was a truly unique and important figure in the exploration of the American west.  While he carried a map of the Rocky Mountain West in his head, he eventually lost his health and moved to a small farm in what is now Westport MO.  By the time of his death at 77 years of age, his vision had deteriorated so much that he would become lost on his own farm.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

16 March 2012 continuing to idle along

          I could have misspelled “idle” for the Latin effect.  Something stopped me.  I let it.  It is painful to misspell something.  Therefore, I try not to let those errors take place. 
          Yesterday, the actual “Ides” began and ended with rain.  During the hike with Mike, we got a light shower with a partial arc rainbow.  Last night we had a line of thunderstorms that rolled in after dark. 
          This morning it was up at 0500 in order to go into Mountain home.  I was treated to a hepatitis A immunization, something we all should have.   I had to undergo a pill count and an observed collection UDS.  Three cups of coffee and three hours time remove any inhibition. 
          Tonight we will dine on pho. 
          We received a package from my sister Suzanne yesterday.  She split the difference between Gloria’s birthday and Jim Bridger’s, more or less.  Nicely done, Suz! Thanks!
          The forecast for tonight includes a 50% probability for thunderstorms.
Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

15 March 2012 May they get the devil they deserve

Karzai urges American pullback after massacre
From Sara Sidner, CNN
March 15, 2012 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
            Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- American troops should pull out of outposts in Afghan villages to their main bases, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday, Karzai's office said, days after an American soldier was accused of leaving his outpost and killing 16 Afghan men, women and children in their villages.
Karzai called the shootings in Kandahar province a cruel act against the people of Afghanistan, and told Panetta that Afghans have lost trust in international forces, the presidential palace said in a statement…”

Cassi Creek:
          George W. Bush and his neocons\theocons put our troops into Afghanistan in 2001 for what were probably valid reasons.  The capture of Osama bin Laden and his merry band of religious fundamentalists was the avowed cause after it became apparent that the ruling Taliban would not surrender him and/or any shreds of Al Queda to stand trial for the attacks of Sept 2001 and previous attacks.  
          The best chance to capture/kill bin Laden was ruined by Bush Admin officials who backed down when Afghan troops refused to assault his suspected position at Tora-Bora, actually holding a company of U.S. troops at gunpoint to prevent them moving in until the intended targets had made it over the border and into Pakistan.  Following that debacle, we allowed the same incompetents to invade and occupy Iraq while putting the troops in Afghanistan on the back burner. 
          Now we are officially out of Iraq and are officially drawing down our forces in Afghanistan.  We are paying huge amounts of what can only be called bribes to the “elected government and agencies” while simultaneously negotiating with the resurgent Taliban; knowing full well that when we finally pull our last troops out, the elected government of Afghanistan will have beaten us across the border. 
          Today, the elected Afghan government has demanded that all U.S. troops be pulled into garrisons, stop joint operations, and any functions outside the wire.  The Taliban were more succinct, simply demanding we leave. 
          Anyone who has studied warfare can tell you that a force kept in garrison and isolated will achieve nothing beyond serving as a target for the opposition’s forces.  If this demand is met, there will be no further training of the, currently, useless Afghan security force or national police.  Those worthies will never advance beyond the disorganized, tribally dominated cluster-fuck that they are today. 
          There is really no reason to remain in Afghanistan.  If commercial enterprises wish to operate there, perhaps they can hire mercenaries to guard their operations and people.  But the U.S. should cease providing nation-building services immediately.
          When we do leave, the Taliban will rapidly regain civil control and rebuild their 8th century CE society.  They can outwait our forces and will. 
          We’ve been told to leave by one faction, the future government.  We’ve been invited to leave by the weaker faction but will be allowed to stay in large bases, as long as the flow of bribes to the current officials continues. 
          We’re broke, the troops are exhausted.  The citizens could care less about the war as long as the athletic broadcasts continue.  There is no remaining reason to expend the lives of our troops and our military hardware.  Bring them home, yesterday!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

14 March 2012 Three thousand words worth

Cassi Creek:
          We see repeated demands that we remain involved in Afghanistan in order to force change in their social and cultural structures so that violence to women and children is eliminated. 
          Afghanistan will fall prey to a returning Taliban whether we stay in country another 6 months of 60 years.  Violence toward women and children will continue to take place in our schools, places of business, in our streets, and in our homes.  We may think we can affect change in the manner women and children are viewed and treated.  However, the National Rifle Association and the religious fundamentalist/evangelicals are as committed to preventing social and cultural change as are the Taliban.  We can’t save Afghanis until we can save Americans.

Cassi Creek:
          In World War II, we fought to win and control landmasses that allowed us to deny their raw materials and usefulness to the enemy forces.  Victory was defined by the surrender of one nation or alliance to opposing forces.  Territorial gains marked progress.  In VietNam, the cause for conflict was ideological and no clearly defined victory existed for the U.S. despite the presence of a clearly defined defeat.  We pretended that we mark victory by “winning hearts and minds.”  In fact, neither populace, North or South, wanted us there for any purpose beyond providing guns and other hardware. 
          This is the situation we now face in Afghanistan.  We were not invited to come and stay.  They will take what hardware we provide and welcome any form of bribes and payoffs.  But we will not win their hearts and minds.  The distance and difference between our world view and theirs is too great.  While we have tremendous technical superiority and highly cohesive, well-trained soldiers, it actually appears that “they have us by the balls.   If we have to be ever mindful of cultural and religious limitations, our chance of defeating an irregular force, sheltered by the populace and able to avoid cultural booby traps is next to none.  We’re combating culture overlaid with a fundamentalist religion – rather like our American Civil War. 

Cassi Creek:
          There is no answer beyond avoiding becoming embroiled in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or any other tribal nation whose army and other governmental agencies are dominated by religious fundamentalists.  Those wars never end; rather like our American Civil War. 
It’s time to leave this war to the historians who will decide what was and what should have been.  Build the fallen troops a monument and let those who returned alive get on with their lives.  Learn the lesson we should have carried forward from VietNam.

“Hear the voices of them all calling softly from the wall,
"Please remember us!”                      
There is no other answer hidden here" *

* (From Requiem - Voices in the Wall - S Lenon 1992)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

13 March 2012 “Why we’d have to flatten the country”


King Henry marched forth, a sword in his hand,
Two thousand horsemen all at his command;
In a fortnight the rivers ran red through the land,
The year fifteen hundred and twenty.

The year is now nineteen sixty five
It's easier far to stay alive.
Just keep your mouth shut while the planes zoom and dive
Ten thousand miles over the ocean.

Simon was drafted in '63,
In '64, sent over the sea;
Last month this letter he sent to me,
He said, "You won't like what I'm saying"

He said, "We've no friends here, no hardly a one,
We've got a few generals who just want our guns;
But it will take more than them if we're ever to win,
Why, we'll have to flatten the country."

"It's my own troops I have to watch out for," he said
"I sleep with a pistol right under my head;"
He wrote this last month; last week he was dead,
And Simon came home in a casket
Words: Pete Seeger (1965)  Music: Traditional
(c) 1965 (renewed), 1966 by Fall River Music, Inc.

End the Afghan mission now
By Eugene RobinsonPublished: March 12
            “This is supposed to be a period of transition from U.S. occupation to Afghan government control. But what do we expect to accomplish between now and 2014, when our troops are supposed to come home? We can be confident that the Afghan government will still be feckless and corrupt. We can anticipate that the Afghan military will still lack personnel, equipment and training. We can be absolutely certain that the Taliban insurgents will still constitute a threat, because — and this is what gung-ho advocates of the war fail to grasp —they live there. To them, Afghanistan is not a battlefield but a home.
It’s their country, not ours. In increasingly clear language, Afghans are telling us to leave. We should listen and oblige.”
Cassi Creek:
          The former aggregation of warring tribes known as Afghanistan is located in a mountainous region of S.W. Asia.  It is difficult to reach and has little working infrastructure beyond the confines of national and provincial capital cities.  It is comprised of tribes dominated by warlords and mullahs, normally at war with each other, despite the proscription that Moslems should not kill other Moslems.  Many armies have been broken in Afghanistan, done in by the combination of logistics, altitude, and temporary cohesive behavior by the tribes, which temporarily hate the new invader more than they hate each other. 
          After the British left the Indian sub-continent at the end of WWII, divesting the Empire of a military task impossible of execution, and of the burden of their attempt to civilize and modernize tribes that were still content to live in the manner of the Caliphate; Afghanistan managed quite nicely to avoid becoming a modern state.  No other nation really cared very much about the people or the resources of Afghanistan until 1980, when the Soviet Union decided to exercise its next generation of generals on the nearest available target,
           What followed was a brutal invasion as only the Soviets could host, followed by a defeat of the Soviet Union that paralleled our loss in VietNam.  High technology war was beaten back by local forces.  As the Soviets left terrain seeded heavily with land mines, the store of modern infantry weapons in Afghanistan grew rapidly.  Between those stolen from the Soviets and those provided to proxy soldiers by U.S. agents and agencies, every male in the nation who wanted a rifle had one.  Civil war and neglect by the rest of the world bred a situation that allowed for the establishment of a brutal and primitive theocracy.  In such a place, Islamic fundamentalists were free to plot attacks on U.S. interests and soil. 
          Those attacks led to the U.S. becoming the latest nation to try to defeat a tribal enemy by means of modern military technology.  We’ve been at it for10 years now.  We’ve paid a fortune in bribes and baksheesh to various warlords and politicians who want nothing from us but guns and money.  We have tried to build a new nation, improve the social conditions for women, and to provide infrastructure where none existed. 
          The reality of Afghanistan is that it has no collective desire to become a modern state, to elevate the status of women, or to build new infrastructure.  The religious and civil leaders who control the country now are happy to keep it poor and backward as long as someone pays them to stay on top of the heap.  To build a modern nation of current Afghanistan we would literally have to pull it down, from the top down, and scrape it off the face of the planet.  Even then, when the U.S, finally said, “It’s done.” A new crop of warlords and mullahs would immediately begin the return to uncivilized, unsocial zed, tribal warfare. 
          There’s no hope for Afghanistan.  It is time to bring our troops home and watch the inevitable descent of what little infrastructure and civilization remains in Afghanistan into a fractured, hopeless sinkhole that lurks, waiting to take on the next army to venture into the Khyber Pass.
          Seeger wrote King Henry about VietNam.  I saw the truth of it there.  However, with a few date revisions, Simon can be a victim of any of our wars since the Cold War began.  We’ve become quite adept at flattening countries.