Saturday, August 22, 2009

Returning from War....to What?

Along with dozens or hundreds of our brother, sisters, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, and friends that return to us daily from Iraq or Afghanistan, with physical wounds and mental/emotional injuries, our son landed in the United States last night. He had spent the last year "serving" in Iraq, his second tour there, and the past eight and a half years serving on active duty and the so-called Reserves for the U.S. Army.

So I ask myself and all of you, "To what country is he/are they returning?"

The normal normal in Iraq or Afghanistan is for well-armed militias and just regular citizens to walk the streets with semi- and automatic weapons strapped to their sides. Patrolling in neighborhoods and markets, you can understand the innate lack of trust and the suspicion that our soldiers had to bare every single day.

The new normal in the United States? Crazy people who think the world revolves around the Second Amendment attending political meetings with what? Semi- and automatic weapons strapped to their sides. Even Presidential events are not respectful enough for these right wing wackos to leave their killing machines at home for a few hours.

If we just reflect on the days of at least my youth, when President Kennedy, Senator Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others were gunned down - murdered - by wackos with hidden guns, what can we reasonably expect in a society where law enforcement - police and even Secret Service, and no doubt FBI - thinks it's just an exercise of Second Amendment "rights" to allow well-armed crazies to stand around in proximity to the President of the United States and other elected representatives of "We The People?"

Does their right to openly display arms in a free and democratic society trump the general public's, let alone the President's, right to feel safe?

Having lived through "Columbine" in our own community, having experienced the sorrow of so many other communities that have experienced public school, college, and gun violence even in churches - forget about all the "random" and senseless gang violence and domestic violence - I have seen enough. Haven't you? We can have philosophical and intellectual, even constitutional debates about what the Second Amendment really intended and means. That's democracy at work. But strapping on guns specifically for attending political events? Well, that's just plain inciting and threatening violence.

We have members of Congress, governors, talking about secession from the Union, about revolution, right wing fascist-supporting talk radio and television hosts spewing outright lies and aiding and abetting those who would bring down our government in the name of "news" and "truth." These people, I fear, are powerful yet lack the intellectual IQ to know truth if it bit them in the ass. Further, they hide behind religion, some even suggesting that their belligerent and sometimes violent (the murders at and bombings of abortion clinics) actions are condoned by God, or at least Christianity. No better than the twisted logic that Islam condones living by the sword.

So our son has returned to "civilization." Exactly where is the civility? Where is the acceptance of "the other" in our society?

Pray that our sons and daughters do not experience what so many of us may have experienced - presidents and others murdered in the streets. Sounds like Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan, does it not?

No thanks to you, Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

No thanks to you, we heard from our son, Zachary Reynolds, last night. After a year in Iraq - his 2nd tour - and more than eight years in the Army, his plane had landed in New Hampshire, on their way to Fort Dix, NJ. He expects to be back home in Colorado at the end of the month.

Mr. President, my wife and I - and so many others - voted for you to bring our sons and daughters home from that immoral war. So far, too few have returned home to their families. And now more of them are being committed to an un-winnable war in Afghanistan. This expansion, plus your lack of leadership and clarity on health care and the deep need for an expansion of Medicare or a Medicare-like option, are very sad failings of your Presidency to date. The early returns are in: you are failing us all, not just us progressives.

Get it together, Mr. President! This is my third email to you just this week. Unless you begin to honor your commitments to the majority that elected you, not to mention the 70+% of Americans that are demanding a "public option" in health care reform, you will lose our support for your administration and leadership - or lack thereof. I worked tirelessly on your campaign here in Colorado and committed, between me and my wife, pretty much as much money as was permitted by law. So did many many of my progressive friends. Unless these policies are truly yours, you are being ill-served by many of those that you selected to serve you in Washington. Perhaps it is time to clean house, reflect on your own promises, and delivery for the American people.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Letter to the President

Dear Mr. President,

Every day that goes by without you honoring your promise to the American people regarding a public option in health care reform is a day that will increase the American people's dissatisfaction with you.

I have read the proposed legislation in both the House and the Senate. Honestly, why does this have to be hundreds, and in the case of the House, over a thousand pages of legislation? Mr. President, you need to keep it simple, yes so that even conservatives in both parties can understand it.

First, open Medicare to everyone. Scale the premiums based on income and structure them in a way in which premiums pay for the program. On the same item, charge higher premiums for seniors whose taxable and/or non-taxable income is above a certain level. Why should someone earning $500,000 in retirement pay the same Medicare premiums as someone who is disabled or earns little more than Social Security? Simple!

Next, require insurance companies to eliminate pre-existing conditions exemptions AND do not allow them to pass along alleged increased resulting costs, or potential costs, in the premiums. It MUST be affordable. The combination of just those two initiatives would put pressure on insurance companies to increase their competitiveness.

Next, insist that Medicare be permitted to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on pricing. Insurance companies do it. It simply makes no sense that Medicare cannot. Create a public web site where people can readily see, not only pricing of private insurance companies, but their expense payout ratios.

Next, eliminate the ridiculous practice, actuarially unjustifiable, whereby insurance companies can charge lower premiums to large employers while sticking it small employers and individuals. I understand risk pooling to be most efficient when there are more people in a very large pool as opposed to separating those pools into little ones and big ones. This is a practice that is ONLY designed to try to rationalize charging higher prices for the very same product to some people, but not others. And it is obviously those that can least afford it, sole proprietors, entrepreneurs, small businesspersons, that are charged the highest premiums and penalized the most when a single individual in their group encounters health problems.

Mr. President, as a Medicare consumer, a result of being disabled with multiple sclerosis, I also purchase a Medicare Part B supplement and a Medicare Part D plan, both provided by private insurance companies. Having a wider public option, such as the simple one - opening Medicare to all, would also potentially broaden the free market for Medicare supplemental plans. It seems like a potential win/win.

Mr. President, it is time to get off the pot and take control. Senators Conrad and Grassley are not your friends, just to name two obvious ones. And Senator Reid, well he does not deserve to be majority leader. A leader he is not! Take charge, Mr. President.

I have outlined a very simple proposal. Anyone can understand it, probably even my Great Danes. And it can be done in such a way that just may not cost the federal government a dime.