Sunday, August 16, 2009

JMO - Ugly Americans

We're ugly. Just as was written about decades ago about our foreign policy. It's still the same. We didn't learn in Iraq and we're not learning in Afghanstan. We're repeating what we think is right and calling it reform and new, and it's not new nor right. It's simply ugly. We don't seem to learn except in hindsight, and then we promptly forget it.

Watching Lehrer News hour on PBS, they interviewed a GlobalPost journalist back from Afghanistan on the Taliban. He explained why we just don't understand them and their country. An American woman who lost her son in Afghanistan decided war wasn't the answer so she went there to open a girl's school in her son's honor. She convinced the village elders to help build the school and ensure it stays open to all girls. They agreed as many of them sent their daughters to the school. The village elders made a pact with the Taliban, who have a presence in the area to keep the village open and free of violence and keep the school open if they (elders) don't actively support the US presence there to oust the Taliban.

The US miliary comes in and decides the pact wasn't in their interests and arrests the village elders for "supporting" the Taliban. The US military tells them they'll release them if they don't actively support the Taliban, including engaging in any "pacts" with them to keep the village and school violence free. The elders reluctantly but not openly agree. Within a week the Taliban blew up a bus of girls on the road to the school in retaliation for the elders "supporting" the US miltary.

There was peace and assurances all the way around until the US military steps in to say anyone who even talks to the Taliban is their enemy, let along engage in discussions to keep a village and a girls school free of violence. The worst offenders in the US military's view are and will be arrested and imprisoned. And now the village elders and people don't trust either side, but trust the Taliban more than the US military.

We're failing to see we are the new Soviets. Hated and feared, and maybe loved occasionally, but only enough to let people get on with their lives. What don't we understand it's an unwinnable war, like Iraq has become and we're exiting as fast as we can without creating a new war, but we know is inevitable. Afghanistan is an order of magnitude worse because the country is surrounded by other countries who would rather help our enemy than us.

We're effectively shining up a really old and bad clunker and calling it new. And thanks to former President Bush, ugly became and is still our clothes of choice. It's on top of the dust on the camoflage every soldier wears and over all the gear every soldier carries. No one doubts we have the best soldiers and the best technology there, but we can't shed the ugly with it.

And we're ugly here. Just watch and listen to the whole public, media and other debates over healthcare. The ugly Americans are rising and raising their voices without listening. They don't want to listen. They don't even want to think, just spew a litany of rhetoric that is meaningless to the debate but makes them sound important. But only to themselves because we're not listening either.

No one listens to the person yelling over everyone at a meeting. We all know them and we all hate them. We have to show restraint and paitence not to want to inflict pain on the throat and shut them up. And still we don't do anything, except seem to tolerate the ugly ones. That's because we all have them in our family and we all understand the embarassment they cause to friends and family.

But ugly is still ugly. We always seem to think we are and we have the answer. To anything. And we have the right to say so whenever and wherever we want and especially think is rigth. Except we've never learned our right is the ugly and we're only looking arrogant and stupid. Pure and simple ugly.

I was listening to the healthcare reform debate when someone asked, "So how can the companies compete with a government run plan?"

Ok, fair question on the surface. But what does this guy think we have to pay a health insurance company money to profit from us over providing good and better healthcare? What does this guy think the word affordable isn't in the lexicon of the health insurance companies. And what does this guy think his health insurance company is putting his interests ahead of their interest for profit and shareholder value?

And what does this guy think the government can run a better system for healthcare and make it affordable? Like Social Security. Like Medicare. Like all the other government run program for the benetif of all. And this guy forgets one really great program, the Federal Employees Health Benefit (FEHB) plan. It's a government-company run cooperative where the private insurance companies provide good, affordable health insurance.

Yes, it's private health insurance, but overseen by the government (Office of Personnel Management or OPM) to ensure federal employees have choices of health plans (about two dozen companies now in the program) at affordable prices. The OPM sets the minimum service and the range of costs, and the companies submit plans within that to be accepted into the program.

Every year every active and retired employee gets to change the company or plan. The company can not reject anyone nor can they terminate the coverage of anyone. One stipulation is that you ensure who pays the premium, whatever their health and their families health. Failure to act within the rules, gets the company ejected from the program and not allowed to re-enter until they show they'll follow the rules.

Kinda' cool huh? And it works beautifully for 8 million employees. And if you want to change the minimium plan and coverage, you talk with OPM, not your company. OPM reviews requests every year and creates the next year's minimum coverage and options within the plans. Everything else is whatever extra the companies want to add, but not raising the premiums.

So, to the loud voices in the room, try listening and learning.

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