Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Affordable Care Act Part III - Endgame

Success has been achieved! My wife is the owner of a brand new shiny health insurance policy. In my last post I was waiting for the phone to ring in order to gain access to the website. Those that know me personally know how patient I am, so yes, I called them back yesterday. A real person answered the phone!

In working with her to solve the problems that kept me from logging into the website it became apparent that the people who are there to assist, really try very hard to do just that. She was pleasant and apologized repeatedly for the problems I was having. Several times during my time on the phone with her, she had to put me on hold while she worked through a problem. Each time she explained what she needed to do and apologized for putting me on hold. Every time she came back to the line, she thanked me for holding. We had been at this for about an hour when she told me she would put me on hold one more time, we were almost there. The hold music played about three notes before the line disconnected. To say I was unhappy would be a very large understatement.

I called back, and after a short wait I was explaining what had happened to a new person. I was hoping to get back to the woman who had been helping me; we were almost done. There is no way for that to be done. Worse yet, the computer system had crashed. I was asked to wait several hours and try calling back. I did learn one more piece of information during this call that helps me to understand just how difficult these representative's job is. The reason the phone disconnected is because the phone system is part of the same computer system used to enroll people in healthcare.

As I stated earlier, I am known for my patience. I called back after waiting about ten minutes. It seems my luck was changing. After explaining the problem yet again to another representative, she happily informed me that the computers were again in working order. No, she had no way of getting me back to representative one, but would be happy to help me finish getting the problems resolved. Within 15 minutes she had all of the concerns fixed and confirmed that I now had access to the website. She also generated a code that would allow me extra time to choose a policy and still have coverage on January first.

After shopping the various policies, my wife and I picked one that would allow my wife to retain her current doctors, without breaking the bank. Made that sound simple, didn't I. It can be very confusing to try and pick a policy based on coverage. What the website shows you is your deductibles and co-pays after any subsidy is applied. When you look at the plan benefits they don't match up. The plan benefits are shown at the retail prices. Not well versed in insurance plans made this a confusing journey for me.

I was directed to the insurance company website to pay the first month's premium for the chosen policy so coverage could begin on time. Upon completing the payment, I was emailed a receipt and the promise of a policy and an I.D. card arriving shortly in the mail. My wife was insured!

Four days of fighting the website, three phone conversations, three very helpful representatives, and I finally have insurance for my wife. My thoughts after this experience are mixed. The A.C.A. does make it possible for me to be able to have health insurance for my wife. Without the subsidy that would not be possible. The people who answer the phone must have halos. They spend their entire day trying to help people with a system so complex that lawyers do not understand it. They accomplish this task with a computer system that has done nothing but crash for more than a year, and yet all three people I dealt with were cheerful and polite.

I'll leave you today with this thought. You are the first representative I talked to. You have spent the better part of an hour fixing all the little glitches so that I can access the website. You are almost done, last step. The system crashes and the phones go dead. You have no way to reconnect with me and even if I call back, I cannot be reconnected to you. Let's be optimistic and assume this only happens twice a day. Could you remain cheerful and polite?

It would seem to me that as frustrating as this is for the consumer, it has to be a stress filled nightmare for those who deal with this every day.




Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Affordable Care Act Part II

Another year has come and gone. Last year about this time I posted about my problems with trying to follow the law and sign up for the A.C.A. The end result last year was applying for an exemption due to the un-affordability for my family.

Here is this year's update. They have fixed some parts of the web-site. Creating an account went smoothly enough, although it refused to retain an address for my wife. After 5 attempts, I assumed that could be fixed at a later date. I completed the rest of the application without incident. The last step of the process is to review and electronically sign that you are providing true information.

Once this step completes, you find out what type of subsidy you qualify for, and begin to shop the available plans. I had done my research, discussed it with family and knew which plan we were hoping to afford. Was I disappointed or surprised? There is the question that cannot yet be answered. On more attempts than I can count, every time I reached the step that would provide the answer, the website displayed an error code. Same code, over and over. I'm two days into the process and stuck exactly where I was last year and the deadline was midnight yesterday. Now what?

Fear not! Displayed on the error code screen was an 800 number that is live 24/7 to help with this or any other problem. Just like last year, I could receive phone assistance. After last year's experience, I knew the hold time could be hours. I was prepared, a snack, fresh drink, and the phone fully charged.

This is where I can proudly tell you about yet another improvement to the service. You no longer need concern yourself with being on hold; it is no longer an option. Leave your name and number and someone will contact you in 5 to 7 days. By leaving the message you are meeting the midnight deadline.

Maybe I'm an optimist, but I would have thought given the problems that were apparent in the launch last year, and a year to get it fixed, it would actually work. The fact that it still does not work well enough to actually purchase insurance without support that is not available, has me wondering if it can be fixed. Maybe a better question is, should it?

If anyone needs me, I'll be waiting for my call for the next 5 to 7 days.




Sunday, March 16, 2014

Random Thoughts

It’s been a long cold winter for most of us. The snow and temperatures have kept me from writing because my focus was absorbed in the pain this winter brought. Now that some semblance of warmth has begun to return, I find myself wanting to see if the fingers are willing to pound around the keyboard. The problem is what to address. There are so many things that can be talked about. So, tonight will just be random thoughts on what’s going on in the world.

In an earlier post I addressed the ACA and my experience with trying to get signed up. I finally logged on and found the policies that would fit our needs. The premium for a scaled down plan was $174.00 a month with a $12,500.00 deductible. How is this a better plan than no insurance? The whole idea was that no one should have to go bankrupt to have adequate health care. Am I the only one that would have to go bankrupt to meet that deductible? The ACA has some very good programs that would help those that need them, but the mandate that I buy insurance to prevent financial disaster, that in itself would cause the same disaster is ludicrous.

Let’s move to money for a minute. It now costs more than 2 cents to produce a penny, and a dime to produce a nickel. I’m not talking profit margins; I’m talking to actually mint them. We are spending twice the face value of the coin to produce it. This would seem an easy problem to solve and save millions of dollars a year. Why can none of our elected officials recognize and fix such an obvious waste of money?

It would appear that Russia is no longer the ally we thought. I don’t know about you, but I’m shocked; Not. When the US discontinued its space program and announced we would depend on Russia for transportation to and from the ISS, I believed it to be a huge mistake. If Putin pushes further into the Ukraine and we impose the sanctions that are being discussed, we as a country will no longer have a way to reach the ISS and Russia will control the space station we built. How could that be bad? I do not think it is in the best interests of our country to try and police what Putin is doing. This has to be a problem that our European allies address. It’s their backyard, it should be their lead.

Then there is that corrupt president we put in power in Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai. He was willing to play along with democracy until his term limit approached. He has had years with us backing him, while he focused on making himself powerful and wealthy. He has avoided signing a continuing agreement with the US, while at the same time eagerly coming to terms with Iran and the Taliban. He now wants all US troops out of the country by years end. I have no problem with that. As we are leaving we can use unused munitions to destroy anything we built that may be of use to him. I believe that we should also warn him that we will not tolerate, but obliterate anything within his borders that would support terrorism. We do not need boots on the ground to do that. Let's make that our policy for all countries that harbor terrorists.

A quick note about our continuing agreement with Afghanistan; the tribal councils and leaders of Afghanistan met and ratified this agreement in ONE weekend. Karzai has refused to sign it. The point I’m making is that this group of leaders who primarily live in what can only be described as just above Stone Age conditions, discussed it, made compromises, and agreed to it in a weekend. Our representatives in Washington should be ashamed. The Afghan representatives put their country before their personal wants or needs and moved forward in the best interests for the people, something our representatives have forgotten how to do.

It would seem the Middle East is in complete turmoil again. We took out a brutal dictator in Iraq, occupied the country so they could form a government and learn to protect themselves, and then left. The result is worse than before we went in. Afghanistan seems to be heading the same direction quickly. Did I mention that Libya finds itself in the same predicament? How many times do we as a country have to repeat the same mistakes before we figure out that some of these populations require a dictator to control all the factions within the country? Are they typically brutal? Yes. Is there a better way? Apparently not. Until the people of these countries rise up and gain their own freedom, they’ll not have it. We as a country need to understand that you cannot give or enforce freedom for a people that are not willing to fight for it.

The Malaysians seem to have misplaced a very large airplane, its passengers, and cargo. After days, they now believe it to have been hijacked by someone with a vast knowledge of that airplane. We've all seen the many theories that are discussed endlessly on the news networks. The latest baffles me somewhat. Agreeing with the assumption that it was hijacked, I am stumped as to why officials think it was flown south, only to crash into the ocean. Why commit a terrorist act by hijacking the plane and then fly it into the ocean where no one will know it happened? If it was flown north it could easily have reached a Middle East destination. I would think that route would be the most scrutinized for obvious reasons. I hope the officials are correct. I shudder to think of the many ways a plane the size of a 777 could be used as a weapon in the right hands. If terrorists have indeed pulled this off, they already have the right hands to weaponize the plane.

I’ll finish with a positive note. It was reported today the Fred Phelps Sr. is on the edge of death. As founder of the Westboro Baptist Church and its endless hate campaigns, his eminent demise can only bring a smile to my face. Sadly, I also have to report the he was excommunicated by his own church last fall which leads me to believe the church’s hate campaigns will continue. It has been repeatedly stated by folks commenting that his funeral and burial receive the same type of protest that he and his church gave to our honored dead. I hope that no one stoops down to the same level as the Westboro group. It is my hope that his death does not make news anywhere. It won’t happen, the news organizations will be all over it. Wouldn't it be nice if they just refused to report it, thus giving his death and the church the amount the amount of attention they truly deserve?

Rant Over!   



Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare

The goal was admirable, but like much of what our government tells us, it is not as advertised. I have no intention of getting into the specifics of whose fault this mess is, or all of the half-truths and misrepresentations that were used to get this law passed. The talking heads have been pointing fingers and placing blame ad nauseum for months. What I would like to share is my experience with trying to abide by this new law.

Like many of you, I found trying to access the website in the early days impossible. I tried several times in the first few weeks, but the site just did not work. It was a never ending loop back to where you started because the site kept crashing. From the news reports it was clear that the site was not ready and never should have been launched.

After it was announced that the site was repaired, I tried several times to get through the first step; registration. After several attempts it became obvious that the government’s definition of repaired must be different from mine. Same loop as before, but they had added error messages. I assume the repair crew must be the same crack staff that designed the site to begin with.

So, with one day left to try and get this done, the wife and out set out to navigate this labyrinth and make one more attempt to comply with the new law. Great news! Things have improved. After only an hour and several website crashes, we succeeded in getting an account set up. Things were looking better! Now it’s time to log in and find out what types of coverage’s are available. After completing the account set up page we were automatically redirected to the log in page. The big moment was here; entered in the login information and clicked login. Oh good, yet another error message. An account that was just created was somehow locked and/or disabled. Two options; live chat or call the 800 number.

I started with the 800 number. No surprise that it is all automated. It first will tell you that they are experiencing a high volume of calls and wait times could be long. To reinforce this it goes on to tell you that if you are on a cell phone, make sure it is fully charged. They should also tell you to pack a sack lunch. I gave up after more than an hour on hold.

I decided to go ahead and waste the rest of my day with trying the live chat option. I actually prefer it as most of the time it is the quickest option on a competently built site. This is much like calling the 800 number. You receive a greeting message telling you they are experiencing a lot of traffic, but someone would be willing to help me shortly. After waiting for someone to chat with for exactly 81 minutes, I again through in the towel and closed the chat window. How did I know I waited 81 minutes? The chat window logs what time you requested help and then sends you a message every 90 to 93 seconds asking you to be patient while they are helping others. I’m assuming the clock is one of the repairs they are so proud of, as it seems to be the only thing on the entire fucking site that works.

According to the HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “We the People” have spent 319 million dollars through the end of October 2013 and are obligated to spend a total of 677 million dollars to build this website. I assume this had to be a no bid contract that apparently required no proof of competency to get. If the company was properly vetted you would think the legacy of poor work would have shown up. Maybe someone should send those in power a link to Angie’s list, or better yet Go Daddy. How about a conversation with a successful web operator like Amazon? I know these are simple suggestions, but I find you get the best information from those who have proven experience, not political connections.

The other question I keep asking myself is this; how can a website that cost so much and works so poorly not have cost someone their job? I can’t think of one private sector job where you could spend 319 million dollars on a project that is a complete and utter failure, and still keep your job. Is no one accountable for what is done with the people’s money?

I’ll close with this; if you are going to force the American people to buy a product they do not want, the least you could do is make the website they have to use work, especially as you have spent millions of “our” dollars to build this site.

In the meantime, I’ll be spending the day on hold, hoping that a Christmas miracle will occur and someone will answer the phone or the live chat.  

 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

For Bob

Shortly after receiving my driver’s license I took a job driving a tow truck at Ernie Schmidt Standard. The man assigned to train me was named Bob Shirley. Despite the difference in age we became fast friends. We had many good times working together, but as time passed, we both moved on to other things. Over the next couple of decades we kept in touch; sometimes just through his brothers Kim and Jay, but that connection remained.

During this time, I became a Corvette expert and Bob fell in love with Corvettes. The first one he showed up with was a race car with headlights. A 3rd generation Corvette is not easy to get in and out of, nor does it offer much in creature comforts. Bob didn't care, it was loud and fast. My job was to keep it maintained and/or repaired. As we began to see more of each other, the friendship continued to grow.

He bought a 96 Corvette when he sold the beast. Still not easy to enter or exit, but creature comforts it had. Bob had all the accessories and enjoyed taking it on the Hot Rod Power Tour several times. As before, I maintained and repaired it for him. It also became a winter resident in my garage to ease parking at his home. Bob became a good friend to my grandson Kael when the car started wintering in the garage. Kael made a deal with Bob to keep the wheels clean, for which Bob paid him $5. When Bob showed up Kael could not wait to tell him of his latest adventures, and Bob would patiently listen as Kael rambled on.

When my health problems began, Bob was constantly checking in. I can’t remember a period in the last three years that he didn't call or drop by to check on me. The last couple of years he was always trying to get me to go out; lunch, a car show, anywhere. Last fall I had a 2010 Corvette in the garage and Bob fell in love with it. The owner decided to sell it, and the asking price was right. I called Bob and he ended up with the Corvette of his dreams.

When the weather broke in the spring, it was time for Bob to get his new Vette out. He wanted me to follow him home so he could have the Vette and his truck at home. I agreed assuming I'd be in the truck. Nope, he wanted me to follow him in the Vette. I assumed he’d drive me back home. No again. He had me drive the Vette and explain how things worked. Typical Bob, he left plates and insurance on the 96 and left it at my disposal. When I had a good enough day to get in and out of it, it was mine to drive.

It was about this time that Bob noticed my roof was in poor shape and asked me about it. I had the shingles, but I was no longer capable of putting them on. He said he’d take care of it; he had a nephew that did roofs. About a month later Brian and friend show up to do my roof; Brian is also a longtime friend and a past employee. They made short work of it, did a great job, and their labor was taken care of by uncle Bob. Bob just shrugged off my thanks as no big deal, but to me and my family it was a very big deal.

As summer began to come to a close, Bob was still doing his best to get me to a car show. He knew I missed going from the many conversations we had. He found out through a chance meeting with my wife at the gas station that the reason I did not go to shows was because I could no longer walk the distances most required. By the time I parked and walked to the show, I was spent.

About a week later Bob showed up and announced he was taking both Vettes to the Mother Road Festival, and that I would be attending. Before I could raise an argument, he announced that he had rented a mobility scooter for me. He would meet me where I parked to help me load and unload the scooter. He left no room for an excuse. Bob asked Kael what he was doing with all of that wheel cleaning money. Kael told him he was saving for a skateboard. Kael also explained at length why he needed one as Bob patiently listened.

I met Bob and Carol at the show on my rented scooter. I had not been to a show in four years; I had a blast. I thoroughly enjoyed the day scooting around looking at the cars and talking with Bob and Carol. I couldn't thank him enough. We all had a good time.

The week after the show, Bob started looking for a scooter to buy. He sent link after link for me to look at. Some of them were more than 5 hours away, but he didn't care. I told him to be patient, a deal would turn up and I wouldn't need it until next show season. I also told him he did not need to buy me a scooter. 

Bob dropped by to see Kael. He had bought him a skateboard and all of the knee and elbow pads that were recommended. I can still see his smile as he watched Kael ride the skateboard. If I had to guess whose smile was bigger that day, Kael or Bob’s, it would be Bob.

We found a scooter the following week that was a really good deal. Bob came by and picked me up so that we could go get it. It was in great shape and made for outside use. Bob had me try it out and then he bought it. We hauled it home that night and talked about the car shows I could now attend. We planned to go to Bloomington Gold and several other shows next season now that I had “wheels”.

I spoke with him last week about getting the Vettes parked for the winter. We made plans to get them put up last Sunday. Typically Bob would call to confirm plans when he got back to town on Thursday nights. I still had not heard from him by Sunday night, nor was he returning my calls. None of this was in character for him. Something must be wrong.

I learned that Bob passed away November 1st. He had a massive stroke the Thursday he was to call. I was devastated. Bob had become one of my closest friends in the last couple of years. A friendship that felt more like family than just friendship. I've spent the last few days grieving for Bob and his family’s loss, but I have found peace in several things.

Bob was home when he had his stroke, not on the road in his 18 wheeler hundreds of miles from home. He was surrounded by those he loved most in his last days. His suffering was not long. He had a great summer in the Corvette of his dreams, doing the things he loved with the love of his life.   

I will miss you my friend. Your visits and our conversations helped me through a really rough time. I will attend the shows we planned to attend together next year without you, but because of you. Every time I sit on that scooter I will be reminded of your kindness, compassion, generosity, and most importantly, your friendship.

Rest in Peace Bob. You've earned it.



Friday, September 20, 2013

My Colonoscopy at Springfield Clinic

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have had some health problems in recent years that have left me disabled. In that post I spoke very highly of the care I have recieved from my doctors, but failed to mention them or the institution they are affiliated with. I would like to correct that error and share my recent experience.

My relationship with Springfield Clinic began in 1959 under the care of Dr. Eveloff. He was the only doctor I saw until the age of 18. I was a healthy child, so most visits were for routine check-ups. Then as today, the staff were always friendly and helpful. Dr. Eveloff and Springfield Clinic had earned my trust through the quality of care that was consistently delivered at every visit.

I met the man who would become my primary physician when he was a resident at SIU family practice. Dr. James Stegeman has been my primary physician for my entire adult life. I will admit that we hit it off the first time we met, and over the years we've become friends. He knows my quirks and has always been willing to help despite them. My trust in him is implicit. His support staff is top notch in every aspect from the receptionist to the nurses.

I went in for my annual wellness visit last month which is discussed in an earlier post. Two days after my visit I received a call from one of Dr. Stegeman's support staff; if I had not yet had a colonoscopy, one needed to be scheduled. These were the words I had been dreading.

I was sent to see Dr.Brad Paris for a consultation. The consultation was short, but very thorough. My first impression was very good. If you have to have this done, the least you could expect is a likeable doctor. Dr. Paris was this and more.

The day before the procedure I started the cleansing process. I had heard all the nightmare stories of having to drink a gallon of the worst tasting liquid ever invented and spending all day and night on the toilet; this has changed. Dr. Paris had prescribed SUPREP, two 6 ounce bottles of fluid taken with water. The first bottle was mixed with water at 10:00 AM and consumed. It had to be followed by two additional glasses of water in the next hour. By 1:00 PM it had done its job, and I no longer worried about my distance from the toilet. A liquid diet for the day; a list of permissible fluids was provided at the consultation. At 8:00 PM the process is repeated. By 10:00 PM the cleansing was complete. Nothing by mouth after midnight. Not a pleasant day, but not nearly as bad as it had been described by others.

My wife and I arrived at the clinic at 5:45 AM the next day. I am not a morning person by any definition, but the clinic is full of them. Happy smiling faces greeted us at every turn. The check-in was painless; the wife was provided a pager so that she did not have to sit in the waiting room. They would notify her when I was in recovery.

After a short wait we were called back to a prep room. Much to my surprise there was a large recliner with a blanket for me to sit in and a TV (remote included) to watch. The nurse went through a few questions to make sure all my information was current. She then provided a gown for me to put on as well as socks. As you know, you wear nothing under this gown. When the wife helped me to put it on, I was surprised to find it was almost as thick as flannel. We cracked the door to let her know I was dressed and in minutes she was in the room with warm blankets. She started an IV and attached the patch to my back that would monitor my vital signs. The anesthesiologist was in to visit and ask a few questions. Dr. Paris then stopped in to make sure we had no further questions before we got started.

A few minutes later the nurse was in to walk me down to where the procedure would be performed. The dreaded walk down the hall with your backside exposed and cold, but wait! As soon as I stood, another nurse was there with a warm blanket which she held over my backside for the walk. They helped me onto the bed, and you guessed it, another freshly warmed blanket. The nurse chatted with me during the short wait for Dr. Paris. When he arrived she told me she was going to start the anesthesia. I watched her push the plunger, and the next thing I know, I'm looking at my wife wondering when they would start. The recovery nurse was waiting with cookies and a soft drink for me while we waited to see Dr. Paris. He was in promptly to explain what was found and to recommend a boost in my fiber intake. My visit ended with a gentle ride in a wheelchair to my car.

The care I received at the clinic for this procedure would rival a first class resort/spa. The staff are friendly people who go above and beyond to make your experience as pleasant as possible. The doctors go out of their way to make sure you understand, and are comfortable with the procedures being performed.

I received a call the next day from Dr. Paris's nurse to check on how I was doing, and to make sure I had no further questions.

I'm not sure when I'll have to go back, but when I do I can rest assured that I will receive the best care available in Central Illinois. Thank you to all involved for making my experience a pleasant one.

Ron Kane

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Syria

Why are we even considering any intervention in Syria? If we listen to the talking heads we will learn that if we do not intervene it threatens our national security. They just can’t seem to tell us how. Most now lean towards telling us how badly our credibility in the world will be damaged. Others will tell you it has to be done for moral and humanitarian reasons.

Let’s take the last one first. Moral and humanitarian reasons; morally the murder of innocents is reprehensible, and the use of chemical weapons on women and children does invoke empathy for the victims and their families. As compassionate people we would want to help them under the definition of humanitarian reasons.

There are many organizations that can provide humanitarian relief; isn’t that something the U.N. is supposed to handle?  So, we are left with the immoral acts being committed on the Syrian people, by the Syrian people. Realistically, the morals of the Syrian people seem to be different from those traditionally held in America. When did “we the people” decide to be the morality police for the world? Whose morals are we enforcing?

Our President drew a red line and warned Syria not to cross it. They ignored that warning and have crossed it more than once, if news reports are to be believed, and we have yet to act. Our credibility is already damaged. If the administration were serious they would have put a plan in place that could be put in action immediately if that line were crossed. Instead, we now openly debate the President’s decision to intervene in both houses, on TV for the world to see, at the President’s request. We’ll probably televise the decision and tell Syria what day and time to expect us.

The argument that our national security is threatened by Syria baffles me. Yes, they have tons of all types of chemical weapons, probably biological weapons as well, but they have no method of delivering such a weapon against our country. Yes, these weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists, but that has most likely already happened. The final point for this argument is that it threatens our allies. Look at a map of the region. How many countries in that part of the world are really our allies? If we were not sending billions of our tax dollars to them in aid every year, would they still be allies?

It seems that somewhere in the past our representatives changed the reasons we would make these sacrifices and “we the people” let that happen. We got involved WW I because our allies were attacked. We were attacked which led to our fighting WW II. Both of these wars were supported by the people; we sold war bonds and we rationed many consumables in order to provide what our soldiers needed. We fought Korea and Vietnam to slow the spread of communism when the cold war with the Soviet Union threatened our country. After that it seems the reasons to go to war became less significant.

We defended Kuwait at the request of Saudi Arabia when Iraq invaded. I believe time will show this as the first mistake America made in the region. It was this decision that empowered the Jihadists. The Saudi leadership chose the U.S. over the Arab fighters who had freed Afghanistan. This was a huge insult to their pride, and it would allow infidels onto Muslim holy ground.

After the attacks of 9/11 the government declared a war on terror. We would bring these terrorists to justice at all costs. I believe every American agreed with this decision. We went to Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban and the terrorists they supported. Then we had to invade Iraq again to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be non-existent. We spent billions of dollars and thousands of our brave warriors’ lives in these campaigns. We continue to do so ten years later in Afghanistan. We brought democracy to both of these countries and the talking heads point to free elections and elected officials now governing these countries as our success. This led to the Arab Spring, which toppled dictators for elected governments, and each time the talking heads went out of their way to tell us how our intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan were the spark that ignited this movement.

So, where does that leave us? Iraq is still experiencing daily sectarian violence, and innocent people continue to die. The freely elected government is so corrupt it makes our politicians look good; not an easy task. Afghanistan is no better off. Egypt is a hotbed of violence which was caused by a military coup which has led to sectarian violence, as well as what appears to be ethnic cleansing.  Libya suffers from similar problems. Now we have a civil war in Syria which finds its roots in religious sectarian differences and we want to get involved? To what end?

Every survey I have seen, regardless of network or party affiliation, shows “we the people” do not want this fight. Why then are our representatives and senators even considering a vote to intervene in Syria? What in the history of our recent interventions in the Middle East makes them think this is our job, or that the end result will be any different from the above examples?

Let’s say for the sake of argument we decide not to intervene. The next decision will be whether or not to arm the rebels. Can anyone tell me who they are? What are the rebels end goals? Will the resulting government be an ally, or more of the above? Let’s not forget, it was us that armed Osama Bin Laden and his Taliban fighters when they were fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It was us that armed Saddam Hussein when he was at war with Iran. This is a trend I think we should end.

Both sides seem to be led by men that place little value on human life. Basher al-Assad has proven his disregard for his people for more than a year. He is more than willing to use any weapon in his arsenal to hold onto his position, against rebel forces and innocents alike. There seem to be several rebel leaders, but the most well-known is a rebel commander named Abu Sakar. A Google search brings up some history about him, including a video of him cutting out the heart and liver of a dead soldier and eating the heart. This is who we want to arm?

As a country we are seventeen trillion dollars in debt. Our military has been at war for more than a decade. The cost in American lives and the billions spent cannot be justified by the results of these actions. It’s time we took care of ourselves and our country.

I believe that we should have the strongest military in the world. If our country is threatened by any entity, I believe the full force of our military should be brought to bear. I also believe the key to any such action should be to crush the enemy to such a degree that no one would dare attempt it in the future. The knock it down, and then rebuild it at our expense is ludicrous.  

Mr. President, tell the world we are no longer their policeman; they’ll have to settle their differences on their own, just as we did in our own Civil War. Tell them that when you drew a red line in a country that is not yours, it was a mistake. After careful consideration you've decided that if the other Arab nations are not willing to step up while Assad continues to kill his own people, it is not our place to get involved. The U.S. will change its focus to defense of its borders and the continued hunting down and destruction of those that would do us harm.

“We the people” need to contact our representatives and tell them to sit this one out. If we do not take the time to make our voices heard, we have no right to bitch when we find ourselves at war again.

Final note: There have been several posts recently of people in full military dress holding up homemade signs in front of their faces that all have a similar theme; I didn't join the Service to fight the Syrian civil war. If you are truly members of our military, you should be ashamed. When you took your oath, you wrote a blank check to the people of the United States up to and including your life to defend this country. If that means fighting in Syria, whether you agree or not, you fight in Syria. Soldiers don’t pick the battles they fight, their commanders do. You should know that. Vietnam was not a popular war, but our brave men and women fought it just the same. More than 50,000 gave their lives because it was deemed by their commanders to be in the best interests of the country. You dishonor them and all who came before them in defense of our nation.