The Oligarchy Times: What is a Patriot

The Oligarchy Times, volume 2, issue 1

In today’s issue of The Oligarchy Times, I ponder the question, “what is a patriot?”

I finally got around to playing the Olympic opening ceremony. I saw many Russian people with sincere looks of pride on their faces. I thought about all of the awful things that have occurred and are occurring in that nation. Before I could finish asking myself the question, “how can you be proud of a nation that has such a dark history and is still perpetrating darkness?” I asked it of myself in light of my own nation’s past and present perpetration of darkness both here and abroad. It was then that I realized the simple definition of “patriot.” A patriot is a person that loves the nation regardless of the nation’s actions.

I do love my nation, the United States, in spite of the fact that we are currently in the business of stripping liberty from our people and those of other nations. I will never cease to love my nation. I will always act to try and direct it toward doing the right things, even if that action is costly.

Being a true patriot is like being a true fan of a sports team. A true fan loves his or her team, regardless of the team’s record. The love of a fan or of a patriot is not based on performance. It is based on an unwavering commitment to love. To quote Christian musician Don Francisco, “love is not a feeling, it’s an act of the will.”

Common sense carbon emission reduction

With all of the whining going on about carbon emissions, I decided to do some research in ways to get the carbon out of the air.  A single device powered by a coal-energy plant would remove ten times the amount of energy needed to run it.  The device in this article was created over 5 years ago.  Imagine the improvement in the technology and drop in the costs to air-capture-pix-small-thumbproduce it.

http://cleantechnica.com/2008/09/29/scientists-create-device-to-remove-carbon-directly-from-the-air/

The Oligarchy Times-The Product Isn’t Good

The Oligarchy Times, volume 1, issue 3

In today’s issue of the Oligarchy Times, we examine the most consistent man in the United States, if not the world. President Barack “Enron” Obama made the following statement on October 23, 2013:

“The product is good. The health insurance that’s being provided is good. It’s high quality and it’s affordable. People can save money, significant money, by getting insurance that’s being provided through these marketplaces. And we know that the demand is there. People are rushing to see what’s available. And those who have already had a chance to enroll are thrilled with what’s available.” (Source: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/susan-jones/obama-shills-obamacare-product-good-call-now#sthash.s6xg4RDg.dpuf)

In almost flawless constancy, President Enron lied, flat out lied.  How can a person state that a largely unavailable product “is good?”  Even if the site is 100% running and available, by all accounts, it is not secure.  In order to go window shopping, you have to give sensitive information.  It is like going window shopping at the mall while naked.

The following is directly from the Chicago Tribune, December 15, 2013

CHICAGO — Rachel Arai is a 38-year-old stay-at-home mom with a second child on the way in February. Her family has never been without health insurance, coverage her family views not as a luxury but as a necessity.

She and her self-employed husband, Devin Stites, want to buy a policy for 2014, but like millions across the country, they’ve found themselves in limbo: With just days left to select coverage that will kick in Jan. 1, they lack the information needed to make a decision on what policy to buy.

The family has health insurance through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. But they’ve been eager to see if they can get a better deal, and possibly a tax credit, through the new Illinois health insurance exchange set up as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The problem: Blue Cross hasn’t told them how much they’ll have to pay for their existing plan in 2014. And HealthCare.gov, the federal website where consumers in 36 states, including Illinois, are supposed to be able to compute their subsidy amount and buy health insurance, has been largely inoperable for many consumers, including Arai.

As the Dec. 23 deadline to obtain insurance coverage approaches, frustration is mounting across the country for people who fear they’ll have little time to assess their health care options or, at worst, not be able to sign up for a plan in time because of the bumpy rollout of the health care law.

There’s not much Arai and her husband can do, aside from wait and hope they get the information they need in time to ensure no gap in coverage.

“I’m really frustrated at this point, (and) I don’t have hours and hours to try and get pricing on my health insurance,” she said. “I’m nervous about the situation, but my hands are kind of tied. I don’t know what to do, and my husband is beside himself.”

For people with chronic conditions or those who require ongoing medical treatment like Arai, the loss of coverage — even for a month — could create a big financial hardship.

How the family and others like them ended up in this pickle is largely a reflection of the technological meltdown that rendered the website all but unusable in its first two months, a reordering of the insurance market spurred by the health care law and the policy reversal that followed.

New regulations under the health law that required all new policies to cover a list of 10 essential health benefits, including prescription drugs, hospitalization and maternity care, with no extra charge. That spurred insurers across the country to cancel plans for millions of Americans with private coverage, including about 185,000 in Illinois.

Massive public outcry erupted, prompting the White House to change course. President Barack Obama announced in November that states could allow insurers to offer existing policies for one more year, even if they didn’t meet the new standards.

Blue Cross, the state’s largest insurer that issued the majority of plans on the individual market last year, decided it would go along. But it has yet to communicate 2014 rate information to Arai and other customers.

“Every week I call they say next week. The email I got earlier this week said next week. Everything is next week, but next week never seems to come,” Arai said.

Lauren Perlstein, a spokeswoman for the parent company of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, said the company will notify its members soon of adjusted 2014 rates that reflect new taxes and fees associated with the health law.

In a letter sent two weeks ago to customers, the insurer said it would tack on an additional 4.1 percent to premiums reflect those new fees, plus another unspecified rate adjustment to account for 2014.

The insurer advises them to compare their current plan to new 2014 plans on its website to ensure they’re getting the coverage that is right for them.

Other insurers that sold individual policies in Illinois this year also will offer those plans next year, including Health Alliance, which said it will increase rates on extended plans by 21.8 percent effective Feb. 1.

Humana is offering renewals for small group plans, but still hasn’t made a decision about individual policies, a spokesman said. Aetna said Thursday it would not offer old plans next year.

State and federal officials have urged consumers to keep trying to access the website, which is working far better in December than in its first two months of operation. They also encourage those who need help sorting out their options to contact one of several dozen community groups across the state that have a combined 1,500 trained helpers who can help people navigate the process of signing up for coverage.

That’s little consolation for Fran Schlesinger, 45, of Naperville, who has spent more than 20 hours trying to sign up for coverage on the federal website, including at least seven hourlong calls with federal call center helpers, to no avail.

After her husband lost his corporate job in 2011, her family of six has purchased coverage on the individual market. Their current policy, through UnitedHealthcare, will cost more than $1,000 a month starting in January, up from about $900.

She estimates the family will be eligible for a hefty federal subsidy to buy an insurance policy on the exchange, but the one time out of dozens that she was able to get through the application process, she inadvertently entered an erroneous income figure. The system kicked her application into Medicaid, the state-federal insurance program for those with low-income or the disabled

Once she realized her mistake, she made four calls to the federal help line, spending an hour on the phone with a helper each time. But she’s still unable to remove or correct her application, leaving her locked out of the system and unable to compare the private policies her family intends to buy.

“At this point, I’ve thrown up my hands and said I can’t deal with this anymore,” Schlesinger said. “I feel like I’m in one of those hamster wheels, where you cannot get off.”

Pam Lefkowitz, 53-year-old Lincolnwood self-employed IT consultant, called the entire process “the biggest nightmare.”

After two months of failed attempts, the finally was able to view health plans on HealthCare.gov Dec. 2. She didn’t like what she saw.

Although she’ll qualify for a monthly tax credit of about $91 if she buys a plan through the exchange, the policies offered carried higher total out-of-pocket costs than her old plan from Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which she would prefer to keep, depending on how much it costs.

She received an e-mail last week from the insurer saying it would renew that plan and send her information this week on how much it would cost in 2014. As of Thursday afternoon, the letter had not arrived.

“I’m in a holding pattern,” Lefkowitz said. “I’m not doing anything until I hear from Blue Cross.”

——

Even for enrolled, obstacles remain

Even those who have signed up via the health exchanges are running into red tape and roadblocks.

The website also has had a number of back-end issues that affect the way it notifies insurance companies of their new enrollees. The federal government said last week that about 10 percent of the enrollment forms HealthCare.gov submits to insurers have errors, including incorrect information, duplicate forms and, in some cases, missing forms.

That’s down from an error rate of about 25 percent in October and November, before a host of significant repairs were made to the website, officials said. Even so, the continued issues raise the specter that some people who believe they are enrolled in a health plan may show up to a doctor’s office or a hospital and find that insurers have no record of their application.

Administration officials and insurance companies suggest that anyone who enrolls in coverage via the federal website call their insurance company to confirm they’ve signed up. For the plan to kick in Jan. 1, enrollees also are required to pay their insurer the first month’s premium by Dec. 31.

In a nod to the ongoing sign-up problems nationwide, federal officials announced several steps Thursday aimed at helping people who get stuck in health care-law limbo. The Department of Health and Human Services said patients enrolled in special insurance plans for people with pre-existing conditions would be able to stay on that coverage until the end of January.

—Peter Frost and Chad Terhune of the Los Angeles Times

To quote The Thompson Twins, “lies, lies, lies, yeah!”

Our New Commandeer-in-Chief, President Enron

The Oligarchy Times

Vol. 1, Issue 2.

President Obama now has a new name and new title.  As of today, I declare his new name to be President Enron.  Why?  Enron promised to deliver a functional energy exchange.  It took in lots of money, but it turned out to benefit a very small number of clients but profoundly benefitted the principles of Enron.  It was incapable of delivering on its promises.  President Enron promised to deliver a working healthcare exchange.  He got elected to the highest office in land based on the lies he told about keeping doctors, keeping insurance, and not costing the taxpayers one dime. What followed the enactment of the Unaffordable Careless Act earned him his new title, Commandeer-in Chief.  This is not a typo.  President Enron commandeered over $700 billion from the Medicare trust fund.  Here are the numbers:

pic_corner_092112_murdock_PB

President Enron and his minions are responsible for the creation of a system that doesn’t only have a flawed Web portal, it doesn’t even have a system created to pay insurance carriers.  So the Unaffordable Careless Act has the ability to take money in but it doesn’t have the ability to send money out.  The Commandeer-in-Chief is also a prolific liar.  He told millions of Americans that “the product is good.”  If the product was good, it would be able to do what was promised.

If you don’t like the name President Enron, I have an alternative: President Barry Madeoff.

Washington is officially snubbing Catholics in additon to Jews

The placement of a U.S. embassy in a nation is an important action.  In 1995, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act.  The Act dictated that the U.S. would have to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to the recognized capital of Israel, Jerusalem by 1999.  It is still in Tel Aviv thanks to executive orders from presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama.

To provide equal opportunity insults, the Obama administration has ordered the U.S. mission to the Holy See (a/k/a Vatican City) be moved to the campus of the U.S. embassy in Rome.  The Holy See is effectively the world capital of Roman Catholicism.  The Holy See has made it clear that embassies should be set up in Vatican City.  The justification of the move is security and cost savings.  The State Department does not identify any unusual security problems in Italy, the Holy See, and San Marino (travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1146.html).  The cost savings is projected to be $1.4 million.  That is a whopping 1.4% of what taxpayers shelled out for the Obamas to travel to Africa in June and July of this year.

To my Catholic friends, welcome to the fold, you now get to experience some of the slights my people, the Jews, have experienced for millennia.

GGW

Today’s entry in The Valley of Wrongness goes to the Infernal Revenue Service.

The letters GGW stand for two things, both of which are equally obscene.  One is Girls Gone Wild and the other is Government Gone Wild.  The text that follows is from Fox Sports’ article, “Win a medal, pay the price.”

Go for the gold — but should you succeed, be prepared to dole out some gold of your own.

The U.S. Olympic Committee awards prize money to American medal winners: $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, $10,000 for bronze. That prize money is taxed at a rate of as much as 35 percent, Americans for Tax Reform calculated. On top of that, the medals themselves are taxed: You only have to fork over $2 to the IRS for the privilege of keeping your bronze medal, but carve off $236 worth from that gold medal.

Michael Phelps should have no trouble shouldering the tax burden — he makes millions in endorsements. But fellow U.S. swimmer Allison Schmitt has won two golds, a silver and a bronze in London. That’s $75,000 in total prize money — and $26,857 owed to the United States Treasury.

Did I say that both GGW’s are equally obscene?  I was wrong.  If a commercial for Girls Gone Wild appears on your TV, you have the option of turning it off.  If you want to own it, you have to choose to buy it.  Government Gone Wild is there whether or not you want it to be there.  There is one big advantage that Government Gone Wild has over Girls Gone Wild.  It will not result in the breakup of your marriage. 

Do you have an entry for The Valley of Wrongness?  Post a link as a reply and add your own commentary.  If it’s really wrong, I’ll post it and give you all of the credit.

Too poor to pay attention

People are often too poor to pay attention.  When I was in the Army, a chaplain friend of mine told me a story of how he checked to see if people were really paying attention.  In the Gospel Church tradition, when the preacher would say something and pause, the crowd would recite “amen” in unison.  One morning he got going and started with a string of statements, each of which were followed by “amen.”  Then his next statement was, “and I’m wearing purple socks.”  As you might guess, the response was “amen.”

Just Say NO to Trolls

A preacher friend of mine sent me a link to a beautiful Christian music video.  When I got done watching it, I noticed a link to this video of Carrie Underwood singing “How Great Thou Art” with Vince Gill.

It was a blessing to watch.  I started writing a nice comment about the video.  Below it, I glanced at a comment from some bitter poop of a supposed Christian that goes by the screen name of atterolevad.

there has been a contemporary christian music industry since the 60′ with many styles including rock. these brave christian ministers have come up against foolishness condeming them for there style of music even though they walk the talk . meanwhile carrie underwood sings about getting revenge if her man ever cheats, while other country singers talk about honky tonk ba donka donk, one more drinking song, whos bed has your boots been under..ect. christian values….I think not.

I had to say something.

For my Christian brethren who don’t think the same artist can sing Jesus Take the Wheel, Before He Cheats, & How Great Thou Art; get a life. This woman is willing to risk popularity & record sales by being very open about her faith. How many risks have YOU taken to proclaim your faith?

Fortunately, God’s grace protects us, even when we strike out in revenge, or, perish the thought, have a drink. The world has much ugliness in it. I suspect that Carrie was telling a story, not writing an autobiography. Just remember, if you are never in the midst of the world, you can’t reach the world. Carrie Underwood has a greater impact on the world by being a Country musician that sings some Gospel than a Gospel musician that sings some Country.

That wasn’t enough.  I was really ticked off at this atterolevad knucklehead so I started doing some research.  In 2009, he/she/it put up a page on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/atterolevad) with a video from this group, the Global Information Network (GIN).  The video was narrated by some kook with a really bad German accent. For ten minutes, he rambled on about how an exclusive membership in GIN, a “club only for affluent, like-minded people” that could help you to raise $10,000 in one day, eliminate bad credit, get a second passport, learn about UFOs, make huge winnings playing baccarat and betting on horse races, attract cars, lovers, and good health, read minds, predict the future, and be healed from almost every disease.  This made me think of a couple of things:

  1. Clearly, GIN couldn’t heal atterolevad’s inability to use the English language.
  2. Since when are Christians interested in mind reading, UFOs, and  being involved in exclusive clubs that wallow in “filthy lucre.”
  3. Doesn’t atterolevad have anything better to do than making stupid comments and promoting cult-like MLM schemes?
  4. How am I allowing myself to get sucked into this insipid discussion?

Then I Googled “atterolevad.”  What I saw was a series of incoherent rants that I can only describe as a cacophony of moronic blather.  atterolevad is what we in interactive chatting call a “troll.”  In fairy tales, trolls are hideous creatures that fear the daylight, hide under bridges, pop up to snatch unsuspecting children from the bridge, and then eat them.  In chat, a troll sits and waits for a spot in a discussion to go on a stupid diatribe, rile people up, and then disappear.

I am writing this for a reason.  atterolevad is a sad little troll.  These trolls tend to suck people, myself included, into their little black pools of putrid ooze.  We waste our time trying to reason with them.  They don’t listen.  Unless you make replies that agree with them 100% they vomit their ignorance upon you and leave you covered in sticky cubes of ochre stupidity.  When we engage them, we might as well go to a theater, wait in line, jump out of the line just before we can buy a ticket, return to the end of the line, and repeat this until the theater closes.  We will have accomplished the same with either activity.

My advice, just say no to trolls.

The Great Wall of Chocolate

P.F. Chang’s has the greatest contrasting items on any menu I’ve ever seen. On one hand are the über-healthy Lettuce Wraps and on the other hand is the insidiously evil Great Wall of Chocolate. I just checked the nutritional information on the Great Wall. It’s insane:

It weighs 560 grams (a pound and one quarter)
1,440 calories (the recommended diet for a male is 2,000 calories for an entire day)
204g of carbs (about a half of one pound)
68g of fat (equal to about 5 teaspoons of Crisco)
1,400 milligrams of sodium (equal to about 5/8 of a teaspoon of salt)

I read an article about this monster from 2009 and the measurements were about 20% higher across the board. I suspect that Chang’s has not chosen to use healthier ingredients. Instead, I’m guessing it just cut the portion from 672 grams (24 ounces) to a much more svelte 560 grams (20 ounces).

I was pondering upon what occasions I would indulge myself with such a thing. The first is if I found out that I had inoperable stage four cancer and the second is if I committed a crime worthy of the death penalty and I was offered a last meal. Other than those, I’ve yet to love myself or loathe myself so much as to make such a big, gooey, tasty, chocolatety mistake (crap, I’m drooling).

Does America have a black president? or “Do I have to eat green ham?”

Before I start, let me state that I have very little use for the term race.  I hate the notion that because people have different phenotypes they are somehow members of different races.  Homo sapiens are of the human race.  We have a variety of phenotypes.  Whether you believe in creation like I do or evolution as do others, phenotypes are a blessing.  For example, the narrow eyes of the Inuit people are helpful to them since they live in an environment with a lot of wind and cold. Along those lines, it makes sense that people whose lives began in the African continent, where intense sunlight is a constant, have dark skin.

That much being said…

When Wanda Sykes isn’t getting political, she can be fairly funny; not Anthony Weiner funny, but funny.  I saw her at the 2009 White House Correspondents Association dinner.  She had at opportunity to take a few well-measured swings at Mr. Obama.  Here is part of what she said:

“It’s amazing, the first black president – I know you’re biracial – but the first black president! That’s unless you screw up. Then it’s going to be, ‘What’s up with the half-white guy, huh?'”

Ms. Sykes made a very profound and true statement.  It raises the question, is Mr. Obama black or is he mixed?  Here is a really beautiful picture of him with his mom, the late Stanley Ann Durham, Ph.D.

The President and his Mom

Stanley Ann Dunham and her son, Barack H. Obama II

She is white (I hate the term.  I’d prefer Steve Bico’s assessment that we are pink.). His dad, Barack H. Obama Sr. is black (another term I am not fond of).

Barack H. Obama, Sr., the President's Dad

Mr. Obama is mixed.  That’s a great thing.  I think the more society becomes comfortable with the idea of mixed marriage, the sooner it will start to think of it the right way, just plain old marriage.  In my life as a minister, I had the privilege of marrying three mixed couples.  The ones with kids have mixed kids.  This begs the question, does America have a black president?

At a deeper level, the question morphs into other questions such as:

  1. How black is black, white is white, etc?
  2. If Melia Obama marries London Emilio Hudson, what box on the Census form will their children check?
  3. Do I have to eat green ham?

Question one is easy to understand although not easy to answer.  Question two requires you to do some homework.  Question three is autobiographical.

In 1981, I was a private in the U.S. Army.  As a private in Basic Training, I had no individuality, no prerogative, and few occasions to be creative.  Then, one afternoon in the chow line of Ft. Dix, N.J., I had a chance to be all three.  We formed two perfectly straight and sweaty lines of cannon-fodder-in-training.  The line of grunts on the left was given spaghetti and meatballs.  The line of grunts I was in got ham.  There was one problem.  When the Army prepared field rations in garrison, it stored them in these contraptions called mermite cans.  A mermite can is a large insulated aluminum container that has hot water and three non-insulated aluminum cans dropped in it.  It is sort of a cross between a double boiler and a thermos.

A Mermite can with its inserts

A Mermite can with its inserts

The mermite can did a decent job of keeping food warm.  It also had a tendency to turn it green, particularly eggs and ham (Dr. Seuss would have approved).  When I saw the green ham, my heretofore unused brain kicked in.  The green ham looked nasty and I didn’t want it.  I wanted the meatballs.  I told my drill sergeant that I could not eat the ham.  As he prepared to have me perform enough push-ups to make my triceps bleed, I whipped out my dog tags that said “Reformed Judaism” at the bottom, right next to the notch that was used to facilitate ramming one of them between my front teeth should I meet with my untimely death on the battlefield.

The drill sergeant pondered the situation for a moment.  He pointed to the meatballs.  I ate them and then faded back into O.D. green uniformity.

What does this have to do with the subject of the United States having (or not having) a black president?  It’s simple.  I was born and raised Jewish but at the time, I wasn’t practicing any faith.  I pulled “the race card” on that hot summer day for one reason; it served me.  It was not because I identified myself with the fledgling nation of Israel.  It was not because I had some overwhelming sense of Jewish pride or identity.  It was because I wanted something and I was willing to identify myself with my ethnic group in order to get it; just like the guy who used to be known as Barry.

Squeeze jars

Companies are making products like jelly and dressings in squeeze jars that have their lids on the bottom.  This lets gravity remove the need to shake down the jar before you use it.  This is a common sense idea.  Why is it that even though the labels are printed in a way that makes it clear the jar is supposed to go cap-down, we still stick them in the fridge cap-up?

Lost time

The funny thing about a blog is the nagging little dates that show up in the left margin. I posted something and saw that eight days had passed since the previous post.  What happened to those days?  I know that I went places and saw people but where did the last eight days go?

I recall the events but not necessarily in any given order.  Odd…