a military retiree’s take on universal healthcare

Three types of people want universal healthcare. Military retirees who want what was promised them when they shed – or risked shedding blood for their country. Those who have chronic health conditions and cannot afford medical care. And those who cannot – or do not want to – pay for moderately-expensive but poor coverage insurance; or low premium insurance, with large co-pays and high deductibles; or the high-premium, low-deductible health insurance. With universal health care, residents and businesses that employ those residents, will pay much higher corporate, income and sales taxes to fund it. When working adults are fewer than the number receiving healthcare, there are obvious funding problems. In America, we are already tens of trillions of dollars in debt for past spending. And yet, when we have a crisis, we look to Government to solve it.

Bureaucrats who cannot solve a decades-old traffic snarl at a particular municipal intersection, are not able to fix a calamity that is Government-provided health care in America. Democrats blame Republicans. Socialists blame capitalists. Republicans blame Democrats. Capitalists believe the “market” will solve everything. In the middle? Military retirees, the homeless, indigent, elderly, non-citizens, and particularly, the large population of Baby Boomers. It is particularly vexing in this nation that a number of residents still working in their 70s, may need to continue, to afford living into their 80s and 90s. Others, for whom current healthcare programs should cover, elderly pensioners with chronic health conditions, will exhaust their savings waiting for aid. Many find either their pension barely covers their living expenses or daily medical care – but not both.

As it has been for decades, once the elderly can no longer manage their own care, or overwhelmed family members are unable to care for a chronically-ill relative at home, a nursing home is the available alternative. But at what cost? Affordable care does not necessarily mean poor, but the Government publishes criteria for family members and advocates to evaluate potential nursing facilities for a patient. Even with Government-funded nursing facilities (Federal (VA) and State-run), access (admissions) and then quality of the facility and staff warrant constant oversight. Like the recent scandals with the Veterans Administration hospitals (wait-listed veterans being dropped or errors in mental health evaluations), lapses in care, and bureaucratic mismanagement might well surpass the life expectancy of the patient.

If universal healthcare is eventually adopted in this country, family members and advocacy groups will need to develop political clout, to monitor doctors, clinics, hospitals and nursing facilities continually. And when funding or staffing crises develop, let us hope for more people working on solutions than looking to fix blame.

the fax about business

Entering the military communications security world in the late 1970s, I was told that the “paperless” revolution was upon us. Forty years later, paper is still central to many bureaucracies and the legal system. Though communication systems have been modernized, technology that is older than most working adults is still being used in education and by Government agencies.

Fax machines were developed to convert documents and images for transmission over telephone lines around the globe. While Internet data rates now approach the hundreds of Gigabits (billions of bits) per second, a fax generally transmits a document at 33 thousand bits per second. A single sheet may take thirty seconds to reach its destination once a link is established. When a hundred or more documents must be transmitted back and forth over the course of several hours, poor connections or errors requiring re-transmission, cause a significant impact on an otherwise efficient work day.

One of the reasons fax machines have endured as long as they have, is that digital “signatures” validating the sender of legal documents via the Internet, have not been reliably secure until very recently. Other than representation of a personal signature on legal documents, it is also excellent for imaging pencil marks. To expedite processing volumes of similar information, a 19th Century technology, Optical Mark Recognition (OMR), was adapted and patented by Scantron. Typical uses for such forms are in Federal student aid, voting booths, at the DMV and so forth. Most schools, universities, government entities and testing centers continue to use “scantrons” as a fairly cheap method to administer multiple-choice tests thousands of times per day. A common No. 2 soft-lead wooden pencil, an answer sheet with ovals or squares and a fax machine line to the test clearinghouse, is technology not soon going away.

Owning a niche business which serves test-takers, the expectation is for the fax transmission of tests and reception of pass/fail reports goes smoothly. Sometimes, any number of issues can stall progress. Telephone line quality, an issue with the equipment or line at either end, or an overwhelming volume of calls being processed by the host computer (the test processing center) create a negative perception among test takers. When customers are accustomed to receiving information at the speed of present-day Internet and wireless communications, managing expectations among clients is the key to a successful day. It also is important to earning additional business from the schools whose graduates are the clients being served. When students are satisfied with the test processing, they may recommend more peers to their school. And in turn, the school may feel their students are being properly and efficiently taken care of. Which in turn creates more entrepreneurial opportunity.

As for the testing centers that process all these results? Adoption and fielding of new technology, like the example of the “paperless” world, is a long, long, long process.

An Admiral AND Chief

A Rear Admiral was honored Monday as an honorary Chief Petty Officer (CPO). It was also the occasion of that warrior’s retirement ceremony at United States Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

The retired and active Chiefs, Officers, military members, and friends came to Nebraska to celebrate her career. Cryptologist. Linguist. Commanding Officer. Warfighter. One speaker rightly said, that those of us whom she lead during her 38- year career “would have gone through a brick wall had she asked”.

The choice of the 16th of September for the Admiral’s retirement ceremony was deliberate. It is the traditional date of pinning new CPOs with their “anchors”. It was also to honor her late elder brother who inspired her 38 years ago to enlist in the Navy. His untimely passing twenty years ago, her husband’s (a retired Marine Colonel) 30- some years support, and Sailors under her command, made her the “Sailor’s Admiral”.

A gathering of old friends, warriors, and mentors

In the USA, fewer than ten percent of living Americans have ever served in the military. Among these, far fewer have served in units dedicated to Command, Control, Communications, Combat Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR). In the Navy Reserve, those Cryptologic and Information Warfare Sailors currently serving at the highest enlisted ranks might fill a conference room. Similarly counted, are those Navy Officers who began careers as enlisted members. When selected to Flag rank, Rear Admiral Sommer-Weddington was one of a very few selected who embodied the “Sailor to Admiral” career. Someone, paraphrasing the commanding general of STRATCOM, whose character, leadership, and ability to do the difficult jobs allowed her a role of gravest national responsibility.

But above and beyond that, we celebrated her as that rare individual whom the Chiefs Mess (with concurrence of the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy) elevated to Chief Petty Officer. Her late brother would have approved.

“Navy Chief! Navy Pride!”

never ask a Navy Chief to be a decorator

what “we” think “we” want -cabinet color, but a darker countertop
surface preparation: Voyage-tinted primer

A Navy Chief Petty Officer is never given the “how-to” just the task to accomplish. The wisdom of the Chiefs’ Mess provides suggestions and a sounding board. That is the wisdom I have lived for the past thirty-five years. For the last several days, I have been dismantling, cleaning, and priming the wood cabinets in our sixty year-old galley kitchen. Removing grime of years needed scrub pads, many buckets of hot water and TSP, and elbow grease. Cleaning and dismantling was easy compared to the next phase of the “in-port Habitability period” (remodeling, for you civilian-types).

What color do I like? I am not sure what “warm”, “complementary” or “2019” colors are. What drawer and cabinet hardware do we want? After hours of online research for kitchens resembling ours, I was given some wide margin. The retired Boatswains Mate at Lowes suggested a cabinet paint that will be “one coat and done” at $50 a gallon. Suspecting, if up to me, I would get the wrong shade, I bought a small can of primer instead, and had Valspar “Voyage” tint added.

where can I find a Boatswains Mate?

In 2019, matching paint and counters to a thirty-plus year old floor was low on my list of worries. Few current-millennium homes have white-tile floors throughout (the previous owner cursed us). Tearing up the floor was a job all my friends said would be a nightmare, so my first thought, would a terrazzo coating over the tile be an option? I kept that idea to myself. I had some experience working with it aboard the USS PETERSON. Color-matching the terrazzo, cabinet paint, with a yet-undecided new countertop, would challenge this Chief’s can-do. We both decided that the floor could be covered with a mat. As for colors, I was going to opine to the Admiral that her next shade pick was a glossy (Navy) Deck Gray. Shipboard colors were kept utilitarian and for camouflage. Deck Gray for decks. Haze Gray for exterior bulkheads (walls) and White, plain white for most everything else. I decided to keep that to myself also.

will terrazzo cover tile?

Next item: these cabinets and drawers never had handles before. I am thinking how to install cabinet handles and pulls precisely. I will need to design a rig to do that. With the ongoing plan to repaint the whole house interior, I am scheduling my “Intermediate Maintenance Availability” for as long as it takes. But time is not really the issue; I am not commuting to a job any longer, so as long as the job is done well, the Admiral shouldn’t fire me?

Sherwin-Williams “Gray Harbor”

bear any burden

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. – John F Kennedy

http://www.brainyquote.com

Today is the eighteenth anniversary of the sneak attack on the United States of America, that resulted in the murder of thousands of men, women, and children. On that day we, as a nation, and the world first learned that a death-cult comprised of fanatical Muslims would use commercial airliners to bring down a symbol of American enterprise, the towers of the World Trade Center, and a kamikaze strike into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. This was also the first time our enemies would learn that American civilians aboard another flying would-be weapon, would willingly and aggressively fight these fanatics, to bring down the aircraft before reaching its target.

The stories of bravery, from these men and women, from members of the New York Fire Department, Police Officers, and civilians and victims in this tragic series of attacks is well-known. We also remember the hundreds of men and women who have suffered life-threatening illnesses from combing through all that poisonous debris – to find, identify, and bury their fellow citizens murdered on that horrible morning.

What Americans should do on this anniversary is to tell our elected representatives that we will no longer tolerate disrespect for our institutions, the purchase of loyalties from non-citizens at the expense of citizens, or the rewriting of history. Further, we oppose the diminishing of American accomplishments, disobedience to the Constitutional-granted powers and laws, and the blatantly self-seeking and pandering politicians. We should instead honor our dead. Support our veterans who, over eighteen years of conflict have suffered and lost. Be proud of our history and our institutions. And fly our national ensign proudly so the living will never forget.

the paint locker

When I wandered over to the Paint desk at my local Lowes, I had been tasked by my favorite “Admiral”, my spouse, to rehab our kitchen. This is where “Boats” comes in. Retired Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate, was, appropriately enough, working the Paint counter at Lowes the day I came looking for “cabinet” paint. I was wearing one of my favorite Retired CPO shirts, and we connected. During my career afloat in the Navy, I learned that salt water corrodes metal seven days a week, so it was a continual task for our Deck Division to chip paint and remove rust, and apply new. When it was needed, all hands took part in priming and painting.

Though our residence has never put to sea, periodic painting inside and outside is considered routine. At least, for married homeowners. My neighbor across the street completely rebuilt their kitchen at the behest of his spouse. Fortunately, I have a fiscally understanding Chain of Command. Since I am not a professional painter, Boats told me about cabinet paint and how to prepare the surfaces for painting. I bought a small can of primer, tinted to what we think we like, today. With friends coming over to dinner this week, I only got started before it was time to pack it up. Long ago, the mission would have been ’round the clock, to prepare everything for dignitaries arriving. Unfortunately, Senior Chief will be unavoidably detained.

road trip

Lancaster to Victorville may get a new highway, (LA Times, 2018)

Driving north into the western Mojave desert in early September had not been on my “bucket list” of places to visit. Had it not been for our now four-month old business, I would not have gotten to chat with some interesting people living and working in “the middle of nowhere”. And I wouldn’t have taken a scenic tour of the western Mojave.

vicinity of Lancaster, CA (wikipedia.org)

A trip to Lancaster, near Palmdale, California was on company business for my spouse and me. Surprisingly, it became a “road trip”. For those unaccustomed to visiting the high desert, the most expeditious way to visit Lancaster is coming from the east, from the I-15 ( in the vicinity of Victorville). But those we were spending three hours on I-15 from San Diego were likely heading to Las Vegas. They pass completely by Antelope Valley and missed the rock formations, pinyon pines, Joshua trees, and the classified military-industrial complex in Palmdale. For nursing students this weekend, successfully completing their written and practical skills exams would be their ticket to immediate employment in California. For these kids, who were no older than toddlers when the area was known for the last landings of the Space Shuttle at Edwards AFB during the ’80s and ’90s they had the “Right Stuff”. No spaceship needed.