Thursday, October 31, 2013

The media's anti-health care reform propaganda is as big a scam as "lost" substandard health insurance plans

The Affordable Care Act continues to come under assault, the latest “fault” for reasons perfectly illegitimate. Once more the media declines to do its duty and inform the public of certain facts it should be aware of, preferring instead to disseminate what it calls “facts” that only serve to distort and mislead. It seems that as many as 14 million people with either individual or small company health plans have been or will be dropped from their current coverage by the end of the year. According to the story, the president “lied” when he said no one would lose their coverage under health care reform. 

Obama didn’t really “lie” about this; people who have legitimate health care insurance have not lost their plans. If he can be faulted, it is only that he underestimated the shocking number of substandard plans being offered to the public. It is only people who were offered and/or knowingly accepted inferior insurance plans or outright scams that are illegal under the ACA who “lost” their plans. One fact that the media is ignoring is that people would have been allowed to “opt-out” of substandard plans offered by their companies anyways; if large numbers of employees chose the exchange rather than the inferior plan they had in the past, there certainly would have been no point in continuing it. Believe me, there are some people who are only too happy to have available to them affordable health care insurance that is real

The people who are complaining about losing their so-called health plans are the ones who apparently think they will never have use for it. But the reality is that when they do need it, it will only cover a fraction of the costs. Perhaps people with higher incomes believe they can absorb the additional out-of-pocket expenses, or they simply have not taken into account those costs. On the other hand, for low-income people these plans are scams of the worst kind—taking money out of every paycheck, and when it comes for payback, it is as if they are getting nothing in return.

The media refuses to tell this truth, preferring to create a phony “scandal.” These fraudulent health care plans that are being dropped do not offer even the most basic coverage mandated by the ACA. This is supposed to be a “bad” thing? Is access to ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, prescription drugs, laboratory services, chronic disease management and—oh, the horror, preventative care—items that you think should not be required in a legitimate health insurance policy?   

Maybe some of you do, but speak for yourself—not for me and millions of others who are invisible to you but are real human beings just as you are. Millions of us were forced to delay or avoid health care because we were denied treatment because of poor or nonexistent coverage, or simply could not afford the prohibitive out-of-pocket expense because of pay levels far below either the mean or median income. With the ACA, people can now afford real health insurance for not much more than what they were paying for scam “insurance.” 

Health care reform means exactly that—and that is no “lie.” What people are “losing” amounts to a net gain if they only choose to put aside the political propaganda. Why the media is failing to inform the public the reasons why people should be thankful that Obama and the Democrats had the courage to look to their long-term interests, instead of being toyed with by Republican and Tea Party partisanship, can only be explained by the belief that “bad news” is good for ratings.

For most people, "charity" begins--and ends--at home

I have on occasion walked past a paired establishment on Central Avenue in Kent that is a combination drug rehabilitation home and furniture store in which people in need of long-term treatment work in order to reintegrate into society. According to a story in the Kent Reporter, city economic and community development director Ben Wolters stated that "It's a faith-based rehab program for folks trying to get out of substance abuse. They'll work in the furniture store and live on site in a dorm. It's a combination of furniture refinishing and repair, retail and housing." 

The store is called PriceCo, while the adjourning facility is called “Welcome Home.” The “faith-based” project is the work of the Canadian-based John Volken Foundation, which apparently operates several of these facilities in Washington and British Columbia. According to project director Steve Dalton, "We screen (applicants) with a fine-tooth comb. There will be no arsonists or sex offenders. We do background checks and find out what they are being treated for or if they are on certain medications."

I’ve seen a couple of these people outside; they are white, have most of their hair shaved off and sometimes have a “tough” look about them. According to the Reporter, it is expected that it will take a minimum of two years and up to three years for them to “graduate” as fit to be released into society, and be provided with assistance to find homes and a job afterward. 

Now, some commentary. It apparently took some time to find a “suitable” location to situate this facility. Unlike the proposed homeless shelter, officials in Kent went out of their way to find such a location, albeit one that was “out of sight.” They managed to accomplish this, with rather “visible” results. To begin with, the particular stretch of Central it is located on is, let’s face it, a highway with long stretches without crosswalks (Kent is the most pedestrian-unfriendly place I’ve ever been in). Nobody drives on it unless they are going somewhere else. There are several former furniture stores that are now abandoned buildings nearby. Whenever I walk by, I can’t help but to observe that customers are few and far between—with rarely more than one car in the parking lot—despite the fact that the building is new and looks quite tidy inside.

According to the Reporter, a similar facility in North Seattle is being moved elsewhere, no explanation given. I wonder if this particular facility will be a success by the time the first “graduation” class is ready; if it does last that long, it will probably take some of those millions that Volken made when he sold his business, United Furniture Warehouse, in 2004. For a facility that serves just 19 patients for up to 3 years, he is putting out a lot to save just a handful of incorrigibles. 

Still, I cannot find fault with the principle behind the project; helping people that society would prefer to discard is a noble thought, provided that these people want to get “right.”  The fault lies more with the assumption that society at large will sympathize with the project’s objectives and support it by taking their furniture purchasing business there. They may “sympathize” if they think of it at all, but even if the name of the store suggests lower-priced product, it is likely not enough to change the habits or minds of potential shoppers who think the location is just too “inconvenient.”

But more than this, the cynic in me senses that we live in a world where many people believe they are too hard put themselves to care. In 2010 the median household income (meaning half were below and half above) in the U.S. was only $29,000 while the mean (average) was $32,000.  Today that puts most households barely above paycheck-to-paycheck subsistence. People in this situation are certainly thinking of what is in their own best interests, and not some complete strangers who need to get their act together. I also frankly doubt that employees at regular furniture stores which are even more dependent on sales for their jobs are altruistic enough to wish they can lose sales to help a few recovering addicts.

Perhaps I am just being too pessimistic about human nature. Volken not only put the entire proceeds of the sale of his company into his foundation, but it also supports orphan children in Africa. But that is easy to do if you have money; these days, the only “charity case” most people know are themselves and/or families.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

TV "judge" dispels myths about gender and "superior" traits

Having my “weekends” on week days has the benefit of allowing me to take care of personal business when everything is “open.” On the other hand, it also unfortunately gives me the opportunity to see how the television tube keeps unemployed and stay-at-home types entertained—especially the networks. This includes “The People’s Court,” which I recall initially featured a Judge Wapner who held “court” over small claims proceedings. Since then there has been a proliferation of these TV judges. At first, or at least with Wapner, these were fairly mundane affairs in which its novelty was enough to capture an audience. 

But things changed, thanks first to “Judge Judy” and then the current “People’s Court” figurehead, Marilyn Milian. Both of these women seem to prefer competing with Jerry Springer’s embarrassing theatrics and his dredging of the sewers of low-life society. All of the accolades I have read describing Milian in particular can only be explained by either gender politics or how audiences have been brain-damaged by the programming “context” in which these court shows operate in. 

Now, I’m sure that some people “get-off” on “sass,” loudness, haughtiness, wild gesticulation, unabashed disdain, rudeness and contemptuous behavior—the kind of thing that would give a defendant a half-dozen grounds for appeal in a 10-minute span, or get a judge disbarred—but to me this kind of behavior dispels any number of myths that one might harbor about the nature of gender traits.

Yesterday I saw Milian telling a defendant that she wasn’t interested in anything he had to say, and lectured the female plaintiff about how women needed to learn to be “strong” and “self-reliant,” and not be “kind” and “gentle.” Milian’s own behavior bears this out, except that one wonders if what she means by “strong” and self-reliant” is being purposefully offensive and unjust. Or it might mean being "courageous" for the 52-year-old to be cavorting in nothing but her bikini briefs on some "private" Caribbean beach, where an intrepid paparazzi photographed the bilious scene.

Milian used to be work in the Miami County Domestic Violence Court, which not surprisingly would produce an insufferably hypocritical “judge” with a gender politics agenda. Milian has been accused being a misandrist in her rulings, but occasionally she “scolds” female litigants when it is necessary to get them “straight” in a “patriarchal” society. If she presides over a “matriarchy,” I find it difficult to discern any “improvement.” 

During one proceeding, a doctor who Milian was speaking to in the usual contemptuous manner had enough and asked her to refer to him as “Dr.” Milian gesticulated like a spastic on speed and “informed” him that “respect” needed to be “earned.” The doctor calmly informed her that where he came from, respect was something you were born with, which only further maddened her. Later, when Milian was frustrating the plaintiff, the doctor apparently decided to play Good Samaritan and interject that her behavior was lacking in “respectfulness,” Milian again flew into immodest rage and ordered the doctor out of the “court” with the “hope” that the plaintiff would clobber him on the way out. People like talk show personalities Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen DeGenerate might be impressed by these antics, but I frankly find them the product of a “disturbed” mind. How do people like this become judges?

Milian is a Caucasian Cuban-American and thus naturally a Republican, often spouting “wisdom” from both ends on the show. On one show in 2009, Milian called both an investor in an Internet marketing business and the owner of the business “criminals” wanting to get “something for nothing”—before launching into a rage against government bailouts, banks and people who don’t want to take “personal responsibility” regardless of who is at fault. 

Of course, all of this makes for good ratings, but is it “justice?” Frankly, no. Some detractors have noted that for all her arrogance and conceit, some litigants actually seem to know more about justice, common sense and the law than Milian does. But more interesting to me that is that she and “Judge Judy” are living proof that women are the “same” as men—and maybe even worse in some respects.

Monday, October 28, 2013

How much luck can one team stand?

The Seattle Seahawks managed a shameful 14-9 win over the 11+  point underdog St. Louis Rams on Monday night, despite being thoroughly out-played and out-gained 339 to 135. Take away an 80-yard touchdown pass and the Seahawks could muster only 55 yards of total offense. The Rams had 23 first downs to only 7 for Seahawks, who had 6 three-and-outs and no other drives longer than 26 yards—mainly because on that particular drive they only had that far to go to score. On the final drive of the game, the Rams marched all the way from their own 3-yard line to the Seattle 1, but failed to punch it in.  

Local sports commentators are saying that “great” teams win these kinds of games against back-up quarterbacks; to me, wins like this are more like a boxer who after losing the first 11 rounds wins on a lucky punch in the 12th. I’m not sure that the Seahawks have improved over last season offensively, and they may well have regressed; they’ve managed to win with defense and a few (very) fortunate big plays on offense. Wins against Carolina, Houston and Tennessee--teams they supposedly outmatched--should have had different outcomes if the fates had not intervened on the Seahawks' behalf. They may well be exposed in the playoffs, particularly if they have to play a road game; “luck” doesn’t always smile on a team that doesn’t deserve that many breaks. 

Here are some other recent examples, more egregious perhaps, of games that have should have gone another way. On November 1, 2009, the Miami Dolphins defeated the New York Jets 30-25 despite being out-gained 378 to 104. They managed this by scoring on kickoff returns of 100 and 101 yards by Ted Ginn, Jr. and a 48-yard fumble return by Jason Taylor. A week earlier, the Buffalo Bills defeated the Carolina Panthers 20-9 despite being out-gained 425 to 167; four Panther turnovers and two Bills touchdown drives totaling 34 yards helped account for this. Even more lopsidedly, on September 26, 2010 the Tennessee Titans defeated the New York Giants 29-10 despite the Giants out-gaining the Titans 471-271. In that game, the Giants failed to score on drives of 81, 84 and 77 yards.

Another day in “Law and Order” Kent

Today I observed what has become an all too common occurrence in Republican Kent, WA: a motorist “pulled over” by an unmarked “civilian” police car. As I walked past the scene, I yelled to the cop “How long is it going to take for these people to learn?” and pointed at the grill of the vehicle, which stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. These vehicles also have what appears to be small “dorsal fins” running along the top, the oddity of which should be a tip-off to motorists that something is not quite kosher when they see this, and should be on their guard. 

Since the number of these vehicles in use seems to be increasing—especially west of Central Avenue, which seems to be the dividing line between the well-off white and the more diverse sides of town—it wouldn’t surprise me if the KPD eventually has at least half its squad cars being souped-up “civilian” vehicles. Frankly, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been any complaints about the ethics of this policy, let alone if it actually deters crime like a marked police car would. Perhaps that is the “point” of using so many unmarked vehicles—not to deter crime or traffic violations, but to encourage them in order to pad arrest statistics. It certainly will do nothing to alter the plans of, say, a hit-and-run mugger.  Perhaps it will take one of the local Republican gentry to be discomfited before questions will be raised.

Every time I walk down the sidewalk and see one of these vehicles in a parking lot or a traffic trap, I shake my head or say something like “Who are you fooling”—apparently a lot of people. I’ve fallen into the habit of watching and learning the habits of the local constabulary; unlike Seattle police, Kent police always seem to be looking for “trouble.” This "trouble" often found me when I hit the roadways in my 1988 Beretta, when I was working at a sports apparel warehouse in Kent; it was the last car I ever owned, and frankly I was happy to be rid of that piece of junk that cost me $4,000 in repair work (all on credit) before I finally called a junk man to tow it away far out of sight. 

But even when it was still running, it was a magnet for trouble--but more likely because I was in it. I recall one incident where I was leaving work and pulled up to an intersection in the left-turn lane. I was too late for the left-turn signal, so I waited for the through traffic to pass before I made my turn. While I was waiting I noticed that curiously there was no through traffic going in my direction passing by in the right lane, and it was at that time I heard a symphony of horns from the cars behind me. When I looked to see the reason for the disturbance I observed that a Kent police car was sitting on my blindside; the drivers behind him were clearing becoming impatient with his stationary pose. 

Why was the cop hiding behind me? Probably because he was waiting for me to turn into traffic, or close enough to give him an excuse to pull me over and see if this “Mexican” had any outstanding warrants or some other reason to make his life miserable. When the cop observed that I had caught wind of his designs, he proceeded to drive on; but it was frequent incidents like this that finally persuaded me that I needed to make it “tougher” on police to concoct excuses to harass me, by walking instead of driving. 

Kent cops don’t bother me as much as they used to, but I still won’t drive anywhere except at work, which is about 90 percent of my job. I know that the local cops don’t appreciate my “rap.” I recall one early incident in which I arrived in town after a trip to an electronics store in Renton. I immediately went to the public library to check my email, and a few minutes later I was on my way to the next order of business. But not without distraction: No sooner had I walked into an adjoining parking lot, by then mostly empty, I was accosted by several cops. 

What was their business with me was unclear. First they asked me if I had a cell phone, then they asked me if I had a gun. Trying to restrain my annoyance I replied in the negative on both counts; after some additional chit-chat I learned that someone had called 911 on their cell phone to report that he or she (probably some older provincial, unhappy about the dilution of the pallid landscape, making a false complaint) had allegedly seen someone with a gun near the library. 

I suppose that wouldn’t “shock” me, I mean people with guns; before they remodeled the library there was a front lobby with a bench, and on one occasion when I sitting there someone who was just being “friendly” showed me his weapon stuck in his pants. It seems that some people have this impression of me that I am either criminally-inclined or culturally in-tuned with gang “culture,” neither which is true. It has taken Kent police a long time to learn this, and these days they generally leave me alone.

But that was still a long way away. The “discussion” I had with the cops continued to “escalate,” and soon I found myself surrounded by a whole platoon of them. Instead of intimidating me, that only aroused me further. I launched into a dissertation about the recent string of killings involving police and unarmed or mentally-disturbed victims—including one in Kent where a bike cop shot and killed a motorist who was allegedly driving “erratically” in the town’s usually devoid-of-life downtown (maybe the cop wanted to keep it that way). The cops seemed bemused by my lecture, and perhaps to hear no more of it they let me continue on my way.