Thursday, March 15, 2012

Coriolus Effect in the Porta-San

Things have been decidedly nosing south since Obama's Afghan 'Surge' petered-out. Not that it's gone away by any stretch - there are still more US boots on that ground than there were when it was only a glisten in Stan McChrystal's steely gaze. But for all the 'attriting' and 'clearing and holding' that's gone on, there are now more Taliban on the ground, too.

'Success',  now, is getting them to come in and surrender their weapons, pose for a photo-op before having a nice lunch and their biometrics recorded. After that, it's off to the nearest future 'overwatch' position for some mine-clearing. Or some are re-equipped with  an old gun and two rounds of ammo to go out and find the rest of the 'bad' guys. They are NOT allowed to go 'swimming in the ocean' they formerly swam in. From looking at some of them, that IS, primarily, THEIR idea, they don't want to be around other Afghans, for they're not 'proud and happy' survivors. And the rate of recidivism, among them, appears to be on the rise, too.

If you were to listen to NATO/ISAF you'd get the impression Afghanistan is all over but the cake and ice cream. The Taliban are 'on the run' and the government is stronger that ever. The Taliban are being 'forced' into peace negotiations by Pakistanis who are, now, on-side (even though the supply 'wagons' are atill coming across central Asia in an operation that will make 'Over the Hump' in great great-grampa's war look like a picnic))  This is what President Obama wants to hear, for he's planning to be 'all gone' for the most part, in 2014. But there's something else decidedly 'stinky' in the Pamirs.

It's little 'embarassments' that make you wonder if all's right with the campaign, and the campaigners. One thing that has always bothered the Afghans is 'night raids'. Yes, they're great for security, ISAF can see in the dark what others can't. The Taliban have to rest-up sometime and catching therm at night is probably better than trying to catch them during the daytime. But the insult to Afghan's homes, disrespect for their families and a marginal propensity to fill Afghan jails by not liking to come back 'empty-handed', has this "valuable" COIN 'tactic' being used at all-time high rates. Naturally this tactic is prone to errors. But a good ISAF/NATO/UN spin department keeps the score of dead Afghans listed on the Taliban/insurgent ledger, as much as humanly possible.

All that 'night raiding' must be having some effect,  for profound stupidity seems to have replaced basic ignorance as a S.O.P. In recent months, along with a stready flow of 'errors' - killing women and children-  troops have been 'outed' on their own 'memento videos'- pissing-on Afghans they killed, gathered around an SS banner.. They've been caught burning Korans in a waste depot and, for the first time, having some frontier scout go 'bug dirt, postal' on Afghan civilians. He's become the poster boy for Afghan 'baby-killers', like the gang of Marines became poster boys for PETA when they publicly, and on video, beat a sheep to death. These guys are actively working at losing.

Sure Afghans have been killed before, lots of them, and not all I'd bet 'by accident'. But the circumstances this time couldn't be 'massaged' into the Afghans' fault, so there's a real mass murderer on somebody's hands.

Oh, to be sure, he has his rights, so his name isn't being released while the investigation is being done. Like Brad Manning's wasn't released before somebody had decided 'he'd done it',  almost two years before the charges were read. Like Brad Manning, the excuse machine is working overtime,  but in the latter case he's no 'fag' with problems related to military life and discipline. He's a veteran of numerous deployments, a daddy, who hurt his head in Iraq. A soldier who could very well be suffering from PTSD! If it wasn't for the trauma of having to leave his family again, for the nth time, it was the trauma of being posted to Joint Base McCord the 'sickest base' in America. It's obvious to everybody, even the Afghans, the man had to be off his rocker, but that could have been due to his drinking problem, too.

The villages he shot up were among those the Canadians 'pacified' and set-up as 'models', at no little expense,  in a more positive day. But they were left to the 'Surge boots', and obviously somebody didn't hear that part, or couldn't give a shit. They certainly don't seem to have 'briefed' their replacements.For the 'models' have reverted to  examples of what Americans expect - a surly bunch of Afghan 'traitors' who've been 'spoiled' by being 'given' too much of everything -  except hot lead and explosives. Canadians, for all the faint praise, weren't the 'energetic' allies America wanted, or expected. Pretty soon the good guys 'had to guard' them, too.

Canadians started-off badly, complaining about getting bombed by a 'speeding' USAF warrior. In Panjwaii, US commanders complained that Canadians were 'shy' to 'get into it' with the Afghans.  When we did 'get into it', US A10's made a 'mistake' and  shot up a Canadian unit. That resulted in more complaining and the US 'left us alone' to do our own thing.  That didn't stop them from 'keeping an eye' on Canadians. It was US commanders who raised the issue of 'fitness' about our little Danny Menard. They accused him of 'fumbling' a suicide attack, and they knew he was boffing an underling. They gave the story to their pet 'embed', Mike Yon, and she blabbed it all over the place. I hope they like the middle management they got to replace him, fat Walter wasn't the kind of ascetic warrior monk they like these days, and as the CO goes, so go his minions.

It's a good thing Canadians are out of Panjwaii and Afghanistan, but I'd like to think one of our guys would have 'bagged' this toad when he left his first target, in defense of the Afghans of course. But we weren't there and America wears the turd all by herself.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Gem in Canada's Crown

One of the best things Canadians have ever done, was to follow the lead of a former 'commie' preacher from the west and set-up a national medicare system. Tommy Douglas was the leader of the Canadian Commonwealth Federation - a cover for 'the communists' - during the 50's and 60's.  He had the notion that one of the things every Canadian should be able to afford was to look after their health. For a long time that wasn't the case, doctors and medicine were private enterprises to which those who could afford subscribed and the rest borrowed when it was absolutely necessary. Doctors 'built' their own patient lists and sold their practices to new-comers as sort of a retirement gratuity. Doctor Fred Banting, the discoverer of insulin, failed in business as a GP and was only saved from a different career by a lab assistant's job at the University of Toronto. Doctors and their patients, both had it rough.

The Government of Canada passed legislation to set up the national medicare plan in the early sixties. But the government left the administration of the plan to each province. Each province set up its own bureaucracy to administer the plan. Hospitals were socialized.  Doctors joined the plan as private corporations contracted  at fixed rates for service, or opted out, as they wished. Each individual was registered with the plan and issued a membership card and could be assigned a doctor if they didn't have one. Individuals paid for the plan at one of two rates, through their employers. Those unable to pay were registered for free. As time passed, many employers subsumed all, or part of the insurance costs  as fringe benefits. Provincial governments allocated other funds to healthcare as well. There were disparities between some provinces, but essentially most common medical and surgical services were 'covered'. Dentists, and some specialists like specialized clinics and opthalmologists exempted themselves and required private arrangements.

As time went on, drug benefit plans were added to insurance coverage paid by individuals, or as fringe benefits. Public coverage of some medications was extended to the unemployed, aged and needy. Some drug abuse treatment and mental health programs became part of the medical establishment. Hospitals and clinics were built in many areas where there had previously been none. Doctors were educated, or imported, often at public expense, to meet needs. Canada has perhaps one of the most wide-spread medical care in the world.  Regional Health Centres to address high-tech treatments, or unique services e.g. oncology, were developed in the 80's  and 'families' of hospitals refer patients for specialized or intensive treatment. Costs were beginning to be concerning in the 80's and 90's and cost savings, as well as increased payments, were instituted.  Some aspects became payable e.g. testing, disposable materials, prosthetics and appliances, private rooms, and there were cutbacks in others e.g. nursing staff reductions. Multi-doctor clinics and nurse-practitioners are becoming more common, to ease pressure on  medical facilities and deal with trivial complaints. Prescription by pharmacists is also being considered to ease the cost of doctor visits.

So where does this leave us all to-day? We're still in good shape.

If you become ill and call an ambulance, there is a paid public service that will have EMS personnel pick you up, treat you as necessary and transport you to an ER. You will be seen by a nurse and physician in order depending on the severity of your problem,  eg chest pains are seen at once and monitoring started. Should you require emergency surgery, that will be done within 24 hours either 'on site' or, if necessary, after transfer to a regional center by land or air ambulance. Other surgery will be done within 26 to 48 hours if required, non-essential procedures will be scheduled at anything from two weeks to three months. Such might involve screening, or evaluatory visits to specialists. Stays in hospital are covered at 'ward rates', private rooms are available at an extra daily cost. All meals and most in hospital treaments, drugs and materials are covered. You will be released when full body function is restored, provided there is safe care for you. Some people are placed in nursing facilities for recovery, at their own cost. Some visiting nurse activity can be arranged at low or no cost. What we only rarely find out in all this is the cost of such treatment. From time to time the plan auditors will send out reports of treatments received and costs involved for corroboration by patients. It is at that time Canadians can appreciate what a gift we have in our healthcare system. For whatever the cost, it could only be increased if there were somebody's 'profit margin'. A payment out of pocket, for a visit to a top-rate opthalmologist, say, is a real 'eye opener', when one gets a glimpse of what 'quality private care' costs.

When  somebody says most Americans are one disease away from bankruptcy,  that's not hard to believe.

I was hospitalized for 5 days due to an aneurism. It was my first real trip to 'the shop'. I signed in, under my own steam, after a day spent with the lab people, the anaesthiologist, heart eval. monitor, x ray, Cat Scan, etc. I was tagged and gowned and swabbed for C Diff. etc. I walked up the hall to the surgical suite, was checked, taken into a theatre, introduced to the 'gang'  present, greeted by my doctors - the surgeon and my GP, there to assist. I was sedated and awoke some 3 hours later in the ICU where I spent the next two full days as there was no room for me on the ward. I had been given a spinal analgesic,  had my abdomen opened and my aorta opened and patched with dacron, the incision had been stapled closed and dressed.

The spinal analgesia was miraculous until I displaced the shunt flopping around in bed. I had the 'trots' due to a preexisting condition that caused almost-constant use of the bedpan and, later, the commode. My nurses deserve a service medal for putting up with my foul output.

Hospital food is crap. I think it a total waste of time and money. Most of it, I would bet, goes into the garbage. That is an area of potential cost saving. Either make a deal with a mass-manufacturer for something like TV dinners, or leave it for the family to provide. Nobody is in hospital long enough to get sick, or well,  from the food. Nutrition should not be a problem, or a hospital department, unless someone is starving.

I noticed that the folks who had come in with me - for some equally-serious surgery - and who had been placed in a ward  (4 to 6 beds) were discharged a full day before I was from my 'private ' room. I found out later that my insurance didn't cover a private room. That was when I got the bill for $600.00. I had a few squawks about that private room, as, the first day I was there, they put somebody in the next room to die. They 'closed' my side of the bathroom door with a paper notice saying that I couldn't use it. Whatever he had required biohazard dress from the staff, one of whom stayed with him every night. She coughed constantly and I could hear her through my side of the common bathroom to which she kept her door open. He also seemed to be visited by members of the staff, with their  kids, well after visiting hours. I know tough times are often lightened by levity, but at one point I had to ask them to take their 'laffs' down the hall to the lounge rather than outside my door. That was close to midnight.  The moribund chap was still in residence when I left.

When I called the hospital business office about my tab, I was told I was getting a "one-time amnesty" on the bill and my insurance coverage was being changed to note 'no private coverage'.

On some floors there are no wards, in that case there is no charge for a private room. Likewise if you get 'bumped up'.  I have feeling, however, that,  if you have insurance coverage, your insurer gets billed. A little 'money-maker' for the hospital, like the parking lot.

 Since then,  it's been back to see the surgeon once, to have the staples out. To see my GP on a number of occasions related to the surgery. All at no cost to dear old retired me. Except for a medicare surcharge on my annual taxable income ($400) . Since I turned 65, my prescriptions cost me $6.88 each, in co-payments, covered by my  family medical insurance.

 Canadian medicare is great.

 Changes may be in the wind but I'd bet Canadians would give up their military and politicians before they'll give up 'socialized' medicine.


What would Jeff have Thought?

Jeff Huber - Commander, USN (ret) died on the 27th of February, past. His death was more widely announced on internet sources to-day, March 7th. He is noted and commemorated on a very wide number of 'alternative' news and opinion sites. That could be because his irreverent wit didn't go over too well with those who ascribe some degree of 'holiness' or 'sacredness' to military service. He'd done that, apparently very well, but it didn't seem to impress him much.

For a long while, 3 or 4 years,  he was a regular contributor to - a site that claims to work for the "benefit of the US Army, Navy, AirForce, Marine Corps and Coast guard". Then somebody might actually have read what they were posting of his and realized that their idea of the 'benefit', and his, were a few galaxies apart. Needless to say, he was, unceremoniously and without comment, dumped. His blog was carried by AntiWar .com - perhaps that's what really 'hung the target' on him, for AntiWar naturally has little good to say about the military-minded.. He wrote for alternate news and opinion sources; Daily Kos, Monsters and Critics, etc and, while he had a special place for anything Navy, he didn't spare fat-headedness in any branch of the service or government. And he had a wonderful vocabulary, and some interesting turns of phrase to describe such people and what they do.

So thinking about last weekend's little love/hate show between Obama and Netanyahu, Obama and AIPAC and Netanyahu coming home to his 'peeps' in America. His 'nukuler duck' routine and the consequent 'duck soup' parody on UTube. I'm thinking that Jeff would have been at his best had he been able to write one last blog about these "processed horses' lunch" products.

Benny's Nuclear Duck Video

The topic of all this was Iran. Gallant little Israel, feeling cornered by the existential threat that Iran might pose, wants to bomb them. Actually she wants America to bomb them, but she is willing to 'go it alone', even though that would probably be ineffective. Obama claims to be needing to be careful, to be waiting for the sanctions to bite, to be working for a diplomatic solution although he has no intention of actually talking to the Iranians. But most of all he needs to mollify a large constituency of hebrews who could try hard to make Milt Romney the next president. Right off the bat Obama was losing this one because he agreed to Netanyahu's agenda.

When they first met,  Iran was a minor issue. The 'change' President was focused on a 'palestine solution'. Since then Netanyahu has done to that policy, what the tea-baggers have done to Obama's domestic policies and so, though things are actually far worse from a palestinian perspective than they were three years ago,  Mr. Netanyahu gets to 'call the shots' on what he thinks is important, and that is an increasing Iranian 'threat'- as opposed to a diminishing Palestinian 'homeland'.

Since the warriors began complaining of a growing 'Iranian threat' back in the late 70's, Israel has become more consistent and more strident about it. Yes, sure there were other threats - in the neighborhood, in the middle east, even at home, but gallant little Israel weathered them all. The PLO, Fatah, intifadah, Lebanon, Gaza, Peace for Galilee, the Rise of Hamas, the resettlement of Gaza, the resettlement of the settlers, the West Bank PA fiasco,  rockettings, 'Operation Iron Filings', the aid flotillas, came and they went and even some F15 parts to Iran in return for contra funding didn't 'sweeten the pot'. When the ayetollehs announced they were rejuvenating a nuclear industry planned by the Shah n'Shah, and kiboshed by the Revolution,  Israel sat up and took notice. Anybody with a nuclear reactor could possibly  make a bomb with it. And they knew the wily Mede was all about making a bomb with it. The bomb, combined with an inaffinity for pushy Zionism on the part of the mad mullahs -  there was a disaster recipe a-cookin',  a real existential threat.. As time went on, the Iranians actually got the old Russian-designed reactor off the ground. Through the good offices of IAEA, Israel was able to 'express its concerns' and interfere, but it couldn't get things stopped.

One of Israel's  efforts was to make sure nobody would sell enriched uranium to the Persians. No uranium?  No fuel. No Fuel? No Reactor. No Reactor? No Bomb. Seems like logic, nu? But the wily Mede has some 800 pounds of yellowcake bought back in the days of the Shah - he bought it from America. The Russians sold them some fuel rods, they bought some centrifuges and set up a cascade, the purification of the Uranium was begun. Sure, there were some bugs, the Stuxnet virus - which allowed the Siemens-made centrifuges to spin their way out of existence, was one.  But the Iranians did a work-around and rebuilt with home-designed centrifuges that are more efficient than the old ones (a  new and recent IAEA complaint). Even a few scientific assassinations and economic sanctions to slow things down didn't seem to work

 The IAEA is struggling, without much success, to have the Iranians 'prove' they're not working on a bomb, that they don't have hidden stores of uranium and that they're not secretly refining what uranium they do have to 90 percent weapons grade. With all their visits and meetings, inspections and investigations, the IAEA hasn't been able to 'prove' that the 'secret'  files on  a laptop, purportedly stolen in Iran and decrypted in America, aren't true. Or false. The IAEA can't tell if the Iranians are going nuts nuclear-wise and already have an arsenal, or whether they're telling the truth about electrical power and medical isotopes. Israel prefers to think they're looking at some nuclear suicide-bombers - Netanyahu's "nuclear duck" no doubt. The US is all 'over the place' with some agencies, including Israeli ones, claiming there is no evidence of threatening action and that Iran is years from having a bomb. Which doesn't beg the age-old dog and car question, what would they do with it if they got it? Israel claims they would drop it on her, even though Israel has never yet felt the need to nuke any of her enemies with bombs she has and they don't. Most nuclear states are aware of MAD and it stops them from using their nuclear weapons haphazardly. Why would Iran be any exception? She hasn't started a war in 300 years, which is something you can't say about Israel, or America.

But back to the weekend - Obama says the USA will ' have Israel's back'. Benny Netanyahu told his Jewish audience about patience, and how Israel has the right to attack,  and time running out, etc. The IAEA is meeting a third time with Iran. Iran will be 'required to prove' the negatives she has as yet been unable to prove. Even if she opens all doors wide and lets the IAEA move in for a year of inspection,  where 's the 'proof' that something else hasn't been hidden? The next report, like the last two, will again provide 'evidence' of  'failure' - Iran's failure.  The UN Security Council has been invited by the 5+1 to 'consult' on the next report and that could lead to another resolution to approve the bombing that will replace the sanctions. Problems are China and Russia sit there, too and I don't think they see the Iranian 'threat to the international community' as clearly as Benny bar Likud. They went along, or abstained, on sanctions to Iran, not knowing what Obama had in mind.  I don't think they'll handsit on bombing. 

Does that  mean Iran's safe? Not by a bombsight! What America got to see and read about last weekend was a disinformation exercise. It may not be a game, but Iran's bombing  is in play - Obama's been quietly deploying men and materiel into the Gulf states for the past three months. Israel will start it and America will make the way safe for her. Probably pony-up the super-bunkerbusters and the B1s and B2s to carry them. And add in a little 'invasion' to make a 'security zone' for Gulf shipping through the Straits of Hormuz. I think this will be a reality before June. What happens after depends on the mullahs and how hard they fight back.

America's military and her hebrews are primed for a 'cakewalk and vict'ry parade'. If it plays like Hollywood,  they'll get it.  If it plays like recent reality, they'll still be bombing Iran in 10 years time,  if something 'bad', viz unforeseen,  hasn't happened and Iran wins.

I wish I had Huber's gift of making stupid really read that way. For the cast of characters involved in this travesty of international relations are burdened with some of the biggest character flaws and hubris imaginable. They shouldn't be making decisions about war, they should be 'in the trenches' for an 'eye-opener'. And there are still lots of those without starting a new set.