President Obama’s Promise Zones

Promise Zones? Really? The president promised Detroit that he would not let it fail. He promised us that if we liked our doctors and our insurance, we could keep them. He promised us that he would close Gitmo. He promised us that he would lead the most transparent administration in history. I look at his promises like a bad case of gas.  They stink from the moment they are made and eventually they are followed by crap that needs to be cleaned up!

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!”

War…what is it good for?

“I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets.” (President Barack Obama, August 31, 2013)

Later, the president said he would involve Congress in a vote on this issue. It somewhat begs the question as to why he is putting to vote a thing that he has already decided on.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence [sic], promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, emphasis mine)

How does attacking a nation that has not struck outside of its own borders constitute a defensive action?

The mission of the Department of Defense is to provide the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country. (Department of Defense official Web site)

Syria has not threatened the United States with war. Its ownership of chemical weapons does not constitute any greater security threat to the United States than any other military armament it possesses. The U.S. owns massive caches of chemical weapons, yet we are no threat to any other nation. Nations around the world, including the U.S., use o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS gas, a/k/a Tear Gas) on their own citizens on a regular basis. Between March 2011 and February 2012, 34 people in Bahrain died from Tear Gas (see http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/blog/tear-gas-or-lethal-gas.html). Maybe we should launch a drone strike on Bahrain.

I have one last quotation:

First, in dealing with those nations that break rules and laws, I believe that we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to change behavior – for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure – and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one. (Barack Obama when he was accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2009)

Lumber, nails, tacks, and shingles

I was having a discussion with several people about the whole “you didn’t build that” thing.  A good friend who is a liberal that believes true discourse is marked by civility, dignity, and respect, pointed out that if it were not for the government providing lumber, nails, tacks, and shingles, referring to infrastructure, we’d not have been able to build our businesses.  I wrote the following in response:

_____ is absolutely right about lumber, nails, tacks and shingles. However, we all need to bear in mind that it was our money that bought all of that. We bought the lumber. We bought the nails, the tacks, and the shingles. We assembled the roads and bridges. We laid the cables and connected the pipes. We paved the roads. We provided our lives in countless conflicts to make sure our land was safe enough to build the things we paid for. Long before there was a government that did these things, people got together as members of communities and built up their towns. Look at the Amish. Without a penny of government money and no advanced technology, they have social programs that build buildings for their children, care for their sick, engage in commerce, and maintain a quality of life that has worked for centuries. We call them backward. I call them successful. Is there a single business or government on the face of the earth that has never changed its business model in hundreds of years and is still in the same line of business? I have something to say to Mr. Obama:

“Nobody in Washington, on either side of the aisle, ever built anything. The only thing that Washington has ever done is take our money and then pay us back with it so that we could build that. The road that led to my in-laws’ office is mine because I paid for it. The only contribution that you have made is the taxes you’ve paid on over $12,000,000 that you, according you own Web site, have earned since 2005. You wrote your books. You traveled to speaking engagements. You worked as a community organizer. Every accomplishment you have made is because you, private citizen Obama, built that. You should be proud of what you actually built and not give the government the slightest responsibility for what every other hard working American like you has built.”

Substance-less eloquence

Eloquence without knowledge, wisdom, and heart benefits nobody except for the speaker that listens to his own words and enjoys them.  People will flock to the eloquent and shower them with mock-love because they like the sound of what they are hearing.  People that fill their ears with substance-less eloquence are like those who are hungry and eat Styrofoam peanuts.  They feel satisfied for the moment but they are no more nourished than before they ate them.

The White House tweeted me!

I must admit, I tweet; not in a Cartesian sense (dubito ergo tweeto, tweeto ergo sum), but I occasionally make use of the service.  I follow a few folks and groups.  One group that I follow is @whitehouse.  My friends on the hill sent me this tweet less than an hour ago:

My first thought was pretty simple, “gee guys, if you are right, then I guess that isn’t too bad since you’ve added six trillion to the deficit in just four years.”

Lex Luthor or Superman?

Greg Gutfeld, host of the late-late-night show “Redeye”  was commenting on the fact that Lech Walesa, the former president of Poland, co-founder of the Solidarity trade union, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and key player in the transformation of Poland to a post-communist state, endorsed Mitt Romney for president.  He then mentioned that Hugo Chavez, the authoritarian president of Venezuela, endorsed Barack Obama.  He equated that to having one candidate being endorsed by Superman, and the other by the arch-villain, Lex Luthor.Barry and Hugo

Lech and Mitt

What if…

Please watch this video:

(The non-dramatized version is here: http://youtu.be/0auwCZkysCc)

Is there a man or woman in either party with enough courage to make this speech?  In 2009, Ron Paul proved that he is a man of unfettered courage and conviction by taking his appointed time on the floor of the House of Representatives, making this speech, and giving back the rest of that time to those who would give lip service to peace and liberty to debate a simple question, “what if?”

What if you vote for someone who thinks it’s OK for the US Government to impose its will on everyone? What if you vote for someone who thinks it’s OK decide what other nations should live and those which need to be put down?  What if you vote for someone who wants to send your son or daughter to die on some other nation’s soil fighting some other nation’s war? What if your vote could allow you to enjoy a free nation where your children and grandchildren live to bury you instead of you burying what’s left of them because they had a commander-in-chief that believed it was OK to meddle in the business of the world?

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.